On May 10, the members of the Health and Human Services Committee of Maine’s legislature debated LD949—a bill that would have created safe consumption spaces (SCS) in the state.
The vote that came out of it was shameful: a unanimous Ought Not to Pass.
During the hearing in April, only one person—Maine DEA Director Roy McKinney, the standard drug warrior—testified against this bill. On the other hand, no fewer than 36 Mainers showed up in Augusta to testify in support of the bill, many shedding tears for their loved ones lost to drug poisoning.
The committee members were unmoved, and the bill will not now be debated in Maine’s House or Senate.
To put it simply, it’s clear that the voices of people who use drugs, people with substance use disorder and their friends and families don’t mean a damn thing to many legislators and other leaders—in a state that ranks in the top 10 in the nation for drug-related deaths. The legislators would rather tokenize and ignore these people than serve them and save lives.
She displayed her bias against a public health intervention that has succeeded in 120 countries around the world.
While every committee member has blood on their hands, we should single out the committee’s co-chair, Rep. Patty Hymanson, a doctor whose position contradicts that of the American Medical Association and amounts to a violation of the Hippocratic Oath.
Attending the hearing, I witnessed how Hymanson grilled the family and friends of Mainers lost to preventable drug poisoning. In doing so, she displayed her bias against a public health intervention that has succeeded in 120 countries around the world—succeeded at saving lives, reducing the spread of disease, reducing public costs—without increasing drug use.
The committee’s decisions is another stain in Maine’s history of discrimination against its most disempowered citizens. Rather than vote to support the 36 people of mixed genders, races and backgrounds who came to testify in favor of SCS, the committee members backed the one white man who showed up and asked them to continue to support the War on Drugs.
The committee members voted to continue to waste taxpayers’ money on this failed system. They voted for disease and marginalization. They voted to embrace stigma over science, and death over life.
Photo of Maine state legislature via Wikimedia Commons