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Mass. bill would let addicts turn in drugs without fear of prosecution

Special kiosks set up at some police stations collect unwanted and unused prescription medication, and some departments accept unwanted guns and ammunition on dedicated takeback days.

Massachusetts police departments could next become a point for addicts seeking recovery to turn in unwanted heroin and other drugs, without the threat of prosecution, under legislation recently filed by state Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante.

“We’re not talking about somebody who comes in with a wheelbarrow full of narcotics, but if you come in good faith, there needs to be — so that we can encourage them to come forward — the provision that says if you’re an addict, you’re coming in good faith, you want treatment and you’re going into treatment, you or the person that’s bringing you can take a possessory amount of heroin and forfeit that without the fear of being charged,” Ferrante said.

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The bill states that a person “who, in good faith, enters a police station and seeks assistance or treatment for a drug-related addiction, or is the subject of a good faith request for such assistance or treatment, shall not be charged or prosecuted for possession of a controlled substance” or drug paraphernalia, if the evidence for such a charge was gained as a result of seeking treatment.

Ferrante, a Gloucester Democrat, originally proposed the measure as an amendment to more comprehensive addiction prevention legislation passed by the House in January, but agreed to withdraw the amendment and file a separate bill because “it was almost like it was too big to be in there.”

The bill was referred last week to the Joint Committee on the Judiciary for consideration. A public hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Ferrante said her bill is inspired by an initiative in Gloucester, where police have started helping addicts get into treatment.

She described the legislation as an expansion of the Good Samaritan law, which protects an overdose victim or witnesses from possession charges if they call 911 for medical help.

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“If the Good Samaritan bill that’s in effect right now is giving the person who’s next to the person who’s dying immunity from possessory charges, then why are we not giving the person who’s actually dying the same immunity?” Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello said. “That’s exactly what this bill proposal is doing.”