September 1, 2021, the Jessica Sosa Act (also known HB 1694, and by its “long title” as “an act relating to a defense to prosecution for certain offenses involving possession of small amounts of controlled substances, marihuana, dangerous drugs, or abusable volatile chemicals, or possession of drug paraphernalia for defendants seeking assistance for a suspected overdose”) went into effect in Texas.
Previously, if a person called to report a drug overdose, and drugs were found at the location when police and medics responded, the person (either the person who called, and/or, troublingly enough, even the person who had overdosed) would be charged with drug possession. This led to a reluctance to seek care for a drug overdose for fear of arrest. Overdose numbers continue to climb in Texas and across the United States during the years leading up, and since the beginning of, the pandemic, with overdose deaths reaching a record 93,000 in 2020—an increase from the previous year of nearly 30%.
As all overdose deaths are entirely preventable, pressure mounted for Texas to adopt a Good Samaritan Overdose Law as virtually every other state already had (as of early 2021, every state but Texas, Kansas, and Wyoming had a Good Samaritan Overdose Law on the books, including the District of Columbia.)
Now, effective September 1, 2021, Texas has such a law in the Jessica Sosa Act. The Act (codified as Texas Health and Safety Code section 481.115 et. Sequence, in subparts (g)(h) and (i)) provides a defense to drug possession and possession of drug paraphernalia for the person requesting assistance for a drug overdose, and the person who has overdosed, where:
- the person is first to make a request for emergency medical assistance during a possible drug overdose;
- remains on the scene until medical assistance arrives; and
- cooperates with medical assistance and law enforcement personnel.
There are various exceptions to the above (see section (h) for when the defense is not available).
While it remains to be seen whether the Jessica Sosa Act leads to a drastic reduction in the number of overdose deaths in Texas, it will, without question, save at least one person’s life; that seems like enough to applaud its enactment.