Skip to main content

CO House Passes Safe Injection Site Bill, Christiania Rips Up Pusher Street, More... (4/8/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #1208)
Politics & Advocacy

A New York bill to require informed consent before drug testing pregnant women hits a roadblock, Australia's New South Wales gets its first drug checking pilot program, and more.

A New York bill to require informed consent before drug testing pregnant women gets some opposition. (Creative Commons)
Drug Testing

New York Bill to Require Informed Consent Before Drug Testing Pregnant Women Hits Roadblock. A bill that would require doctors and hospitals to obtain informed consent from pregnant patients before subjecting them to drug testing, A00109, has hit a roadblock on its way to an Assembly floor vote. The measure passed the Assembly Rules Committee and Codes Committee earlier this year, but a floor vote set for last week didn't happen after a tense debate among members led to the bill being tabled.

The bill is still alive until the session ends on June 6 and Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo) said she thinks "the bill passes at some point," likely after tightening the legislation’s language to make its intent clearer.

The bill is supposed to bolster trust between pregnant women and their healthcare providers, but the debate last week grew contentious around the role of Child Protective Services and the impact of the legislation on newborns.

"A trusting relationship is required between patient and provider in order to get good health care, and it’s one of the reasons why we see such disparity in the way health care is delivered, because there is not that trust," Peoples-Stokes said Friday. "And we've got to get to that. I think the legislation is good. It just needs to be tweaked."

Oft-cited in the debate was a story published in the Buffalo News about a mother tested without her consent whose test results came back positive for opiates because, she said, she ate bagels with poppy seeds. She was under investigation by Child Protective Services for two months before the report of suspected child abuse was deemed unfounded.

"We want to avoid situations like this," said Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal (D-Manhattan), who is sponsoring the informed consent bill. Rosenthal also said a test done without informed consent "totally breaks the trust" between the patient and their health care provider.

But conservative Republicans such as Assembly Member Mary Beth Walsh (R-Schenectady) accused members of "vilifying an agency that’s been created in our state to help." She questioned why the Assembly would create what she called "a barrier" that would hinder Child Protective Services from doing their job, though she agreed with Rosenthal that a positive drug test should not solely establish abuse or neglect.

"Why wouldn't we want to know if a pregnant woman or if a newborn baby had illegal drugs in their system, or alcohol?" Walsh asked Rosenthal.

After clarifying that cannabis is now legal, Rosenthal said, "That is a decision that is up to the individual who is pregnant."

Walsh fired back: "So society has no interest in determining whether or not a mother who is pregnant with a baby has got drugs in her system?"

"Society may have an interest," Rosenthal replied, "but it is up to the individual whether they want to be tested."

The bill will require further effort to get it passed, said Jenna Lauter, policy counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union. "I think it's clear that we need to continue to educate lawmakers and the public about the fact that substance use is a health issue, and it needs to be met with compassion, dignity and is best addressed through a trusting and open relationship with their health care provider," Lauter said.

Harm Reduction

Colorado House Passes Safe Injection Site Bill. The House last Friday gave final approval to a bill to create safe injection sites in the state, House Bill 24-1028. It passed a similar measure last year, only to see it die in the Senate.

The bill would let municipalities across the state open safe injection sites staffed by healthcare professionals where drug users can test and ingest their drugs.

"It stalled for a few years. Last year it made it through the House, there was a Senate issue and a governor issue. This year, we are hoping it makes it through the House, and we're hoping it makes it through the Senate. We want to get it to the governor’s desk," said Lisa Raville, executive director of the Harm Reduction Action Center. "We will never treat or incarcerate our way out of an unregulated drug supply, ever. This is the worst overdose crisis we’ve ever been in, and quite frankly, it's a prohibition crisis."

To become law, the bill will not only have to get through the Senate; it will have to be approved by Gov. Jared Polis (D), and his office shows no interest in doing so.

"The Governor has stated he is opposed to this approach and believes this is not a constructive way to address substance abuse. The Governor is supportive of increasing access to treatment options for Coloradans, including funding for more capital construction to increase the number of beds available," his office said.


Australia's New South Wales Gets Its First Drug Checking Pilot Program. Drug checking is coming to Sydney, with a first pilot program at the Kings Cross safe injection site (Medically Supervised Injecting Center) opening today. The pill testing program will run one day a week for about four months at the site.

Participants in the program must already be registered with the safe injection site. They can provide a small quantity of their drugs for testing. They will then be given an analysis of their substance, which includes details of the mix of drugs present, the purity of the substance, plus targeted harm reduction advice.

MSIC medical director Marianne Jauncey said the pilot program will study the interest, feasibility, and efficacy of drug checking. "It will also improve monitoring of the street drug marketplace so that unexpected or highly dangerous substances may be identified earlier, ideally before people use them," Dr Jauncey said.

Denmark's Christiania Hippie Enclave Rips Up Pusher Street. The half-century-old hippie enclave of Christiania in Copenhagen long tolerated illicit weed and hash sales on its infamous Pusher Street, leading to clashes with authorities over the years, but with the advent of hard drug sales and violence among dealers, on Saturday, Christiania's residents literally tore up Pusher Street, pulling up its cobblestones brick by brick in a bid to end the social disruption.

"For more than 40 years, Christiania and the illegal sale of drugs out here has been a huge thorn in the side of the established society," said Danish justice minister Peter Hummelgaard, who was on the scene. "But now we have reached the point where the Christianians have also had enough of the [criminal] gangs."

Hulda Mader, who has lived in Christiania for 40 years, said: "We don't want the gangsters anymore." But the hash trade is another story. "There might be some people selling hashish afterward, but it's not going to be in the open," she added.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.