Why Every School Should Have A 'Good Samaritan' Policy

Twenty-two years ago, the tragic overdose death of a rising basketball star sparked a reactionary scare across the United States, resulting in the creation of the most destructive drug policies to date.

Len Bias, a University of Maryland forward who was thought by many to be "the next Michael Jordan," died of a cocaine overdose less than 48 hours after being drafted by the Boston Celtics. Because Congress rushed to create mandatory minimum sentences for small amounts of drugs, more than half a million Americans will go to sleep behind bars tonight, simply for nonviolent drug offenses. This is the legacy of Len Bias.

But this does not need to be his legacy.

A Good Samaritan Policy could have saved Len Bias's life. These policies exempt people from punishment if they call 911 to report an overdose emergency, and nearly 100 colleges and the entire state of New Mexico have had the good sense to adopt them. A Good Samaritan Policy eliminates the dilemma that Bias's friends were faced with when he went unconscious that night: Call for help and risk arrest, or hope that he sleeps it off?

Tragically, as drug laws have become increasingly punitive following Bias's death, countless lives have been lost as a result of the paralyzing fear created by the unforgiving War on Drugs.

But by urging your state legislators to enact a life-saving Good Samaritan Policy, you can join with tens of thousands of Students for Sensible Drug Policy members in reversing the legacy of Len Bias.

SSDP has already made great strides in our Good Samaritan Policy campaign. Dozens of SSDP chapters are working closely with their schools' administrators on enacting these policies and seven have succeeded so far. Additionally, several chapters have been involved in pushing forward state-wide legislation that has been introduced in Illinois, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Washington. And many chapter members are working collaboratively on compiling research on Good Samaritan policies so that we can be well-equipped to hit the ground running in the fall semester.

And you can help build this momentum. Please ask your state lawmakers to follow New Mexico's lead by enacting a Good Samaritan Policy: http://ssdp.org/savelives

One day, we will look back in disbelief at the way people with drug problems were treated with such indifference because we were too focused on jailing them instead of helping them. With your help, our policies will be rooted in health and compassion rather than prejudice and punishment. And that will be the final legacy of Len Bias.


Micah Daigle
SSDP National Field Director

P.S. If you are a student wishing to get involved in enacting a Good Samaritan Policy on your campus, you can find out more about the campaign at http://ssdp.org/goodsamaritan or contact us about starting an SSDP chapter: http://ssdp.org/chapters/start