Faced with an epidemic of drug fatalities, New Mexico has enacted a law providing immunity from prosecution for people who come forward to help drug users suffering overdoses, the New York Times reports. The act, signed by Gov. Bill Richardson, prevents authorities from prosecuting on the basis of evidence “gained as a result of the seeking of medical assistance.” It protects drug users themselves from prosecution if the process of seeking help for an overdose provides the only evidence against them.
The legislation, popularly known as the 911 Good Samaritan bill, is the first of its kind, says the National Conference of State Legislatures. The action was praised by the Drug Policy Alliance, which works to ease drug penalties. The group said New Mexico had the worst overdose problem in the country, with about one death a day. It was the second drug measure signed in two days by Richardson, who is running for pesident. He signed a medical marijuana bill that allows patients who are H.I.V. positive or who have diseases including AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, or multiple sclerosis to relieve pain with marijuana, under a doctor's supervision.