Bill would grant immunity to people who seek help in drug overdose
Law might have protected woman who called for help in Sunriver marijuana gummies case
A proposed law that would grant immunity to people who seek medical help for someone having an adverse reaction to drugs likely would have applied in the case of a Seattle woman who was cited for marijuana possession in Sunriver after her friend had a bad reaction to marijuana gummies this week.
A 51-year-old woman gave her 37-year-old friend berry-shaped candies that were infused with marijuana. The woman knowingly ate the candies, then had an adverse reaction after eating three. Both women were from Washington, where pot is legal for recreational consumption.
The older woman called 911 early Monday from Sunriver Resort and was subsequently charged with possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. A bill filed in the Oregon Legislature by Portland Rep. Jennifer Williamson likely would have protected the woman from charges.
“We want to take all the barriers away from somebody seeking medical help who is in trouble and actively overdosing,” she said.
The immunity law would apply in cases in which the person who called for help possessed illegal drugs, whether pot or a highly addictive opiate. The immunity would apply in cases where the person who called was on parole or probation.
A similar law protecting underage drinkers who seek help took effect in Oregon on Jan. 1.
“This is, I think, the natural outgrowth of that. Especially (when) marijuana becomes legal, because we’ll have underagers using marijuana as well,” Williamson said.
Sunriver Police Chief Marc Mills told The Bulletin his department used discretion when deciding to cite the 51-year-old woman.
Police could have cited the younger woman with possession as well but decided not to, Mills said.
He said he supports Williamson’s idea, but, “The law is currently the law. Nobody is telling us to ignore it. As long as the law is in place, we will enforce it.”
Mills said he wasn’t seeking the attention the case has gathered, but he does welcome the conversations that are occurring before possession of an ounce in public and a half-pound at home becomes legal July 1 in Oregon.
Oregon’s rural and urban communities are split on how to approach marijuana until then. The Bulletin found four district attorneys would drop all pending and future marijuana-related cases. Eleven said they’d continue to enforce. Many said prosecuting pot wasn’t a top priority.
Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said he’d address it on a case-by-case basis, joining seven other district attorneys. This case will likely come across Hummel’s desk next week, he said.
Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, pointed to the incident when she promised a cautious approach to marijuana-infused edibles, which will become legal under the law passed in November.
Burdick will co-chair the Joint Committee on Ballot Measure 91 Implementation when lawmakers convene Feb. 2. She said Thursday she wasn’t willing to allow edibles to become legal until lawmakers tinker with packaging and labeling requirements in the law to avoid incidents similar to the one in Sunriver and to keep them out of kids’ mouths.
“On the other side of the equation, there are people who rely on medical marijuana who can’t smoke or don’t want to smoke who need some form of edible form,” Burdick said.
Burdick said she hadn’t read Williamson’s bill but said the concept sounded like one she would support.
As committee co-chair, Burdick will be one of the most influential lawmakers this session regarding the new marijuana law.
— Reporter: 406-589-4347,