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public health

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Sense of the Council Urging the Federal Government to End its Embargo Against Cuba Resolution of 2019

Sense of the Council Urging the Federal Government to End its Embargo Against Cuba Resolution of 2019

Introduced: June 4, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, and Mary Cheh

BILL TEXT

Summary: This resolution reaffirms the District's status as a guardian of human rights for all people and calls on the President and Congress to act quickly to end all aspects of the U.S. economic, commercial, and financial embargo against Cuba, as well as, end all restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today along with my colleagues, Councilmembers Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Robert White, I am introducing the Sense of the Council Urging the Federal Government to End its Embargo Against Cuba Resolution of 2019.

Since 1959, when Fidel Castro seized power in Havana, overthrowing the U.S.-backed government of Fulgencio Batista, the relationship between the United States and Cuba has been plagued by distrust and hostility.

In the decades to follow, economic and diplomatic isolation have come to characterize the U.S. government's policy toward Cuba, with the United States at times engaging in hostile, aggressive and sometimes violent actions against the island nation.

Under the Obama administration, enormous strides were made to reestablish diplomatic relations between the two countries. President Obama eased restrictions on travel and trade, repealed the "wet foot, dry foot" policy, and eventually announced that he and Raul Castro would work to restore full diplomatic ties.

Unfortunately, the Trump administration has altered several Obama-era regulations including eliminating the "people-to-people educational travel" category for U.S. citizens to qualify for a license from the Treasury Department to travel to Cuba.

Additionally, the Trump administration has pulled 2/3rds of its embassy staff from Havana and imposed prohibitions on commerce.

The more the Trump administration seeks to asphyxiate Cuba, the harder the Cuban government will impose political discipline on its people. In the end, the Trump administration's approach will only serve to create scarcity, desperation, and chaos for the Cuban people.

This resolution reaffirms the District's status as a guardian of human rights for all people and calls on the President and Congress to act quickly to end all aspects of the U.S. economic, commercial, and financial embargo against Cuba, as well as, end all restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. Citizens.

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Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019

Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: June 4, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Robert White, Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau

FACT SHEETS | BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend an Act for the suppression of prostitution in the District of Columbia; to amend an Act in relation to pandering, to define and prohibit the same and to provide for the punishment thereof to remove certain criminal penalties for engaging in sex work in order to promote public health and safety; to repeal Section 1 of an Act to enjoin and abate houses of lewdness, assignation, and prostitution, to declare the same to be nuisances, to enjoin the person or persons who conduct or maintain the same and the owner or agent of any building used for such purpose, and to assess a tax against the person maintaining said nuisance and against the building and owner thereof; to repeal An Act to confer concurrent jurisdiction on the police court of the District of Columbia in certain cases; and to create a task force to assess the impact of this legislation and recommend further reforms to improve community safety and health.


Community Safety and Health Amendment Act of 2019 - FACT SHEET.png

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Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Amendment Act of 2019

Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employment Protection Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: May 28, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Robert White, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, and Vincent Gray

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the District of Columbia Government Comprehensive Merit Personnel Act of 1978 and the Department of Corrections Employee Mandatory Drug and Alcohol Testing Act of 1996 to prohibit the District of Columbia government from discriminating, in employment, against an individual for participation in the medical marijuana program.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today I am introducing the Medical Marijuana Program Patient Employee Protection Amendment Act of 2019, and I thank Councilmembers Vincent Gray, Robert White, Anita Bonds, Brianne Nadeau and Mary Cheh for joining me as co-introducers.

The voters of the District of Columbia approved establishment of a medical marijuana program in 1999, but due to Congressional interference, the program was not set up and running until a little less than ten years ago.

Since that time, the Council and the executive have worked to improve the program to make medical marijuana available to D.C. residents who need it.

Unfortunately, unlike a number of other jurisdictions, we never updated our laws regarding drug testing to account for the fact that D.C. government employees could be patients registered with the program.

On the positive side, the Department of Human Resources on its own implemented a policy for employees who are registered with the medical marijuana program and who test positive for marijuana in the course of the routine testing that happens for some positions.

I found this out after I began to hear complaints from constituents last year about the fact that some agencies were NOT following the DCHR policy.

While those agencies, including the Department of Corrections, have the right to set their own policies on the topic, the decision to penalize employees for seeking medicine is definitely not the right one to make.

I have tried to work with the Department of Corrections to get this fixed, including sending a letter along with several of my colleagues asking them to follow the DCHR policy.

DOC did not respond for over a month, and then claimed that they were following the policy, which is not true. While they are allowed to do routine testing for safety sensitive positions, they must also allow patients to present their medical marijuana card as explanation for positive results.

Simply put, unless there is a federal law or rule that requires it, D.C. government should not be refusing to hire, firing, or penalizing individuals for using medical marijuana, as long as they are not consuming on the job or showing up intoxicated.

Frankly it is embarrassing that it has taken us this long to take up this measure.

I hope that between this bill and the proposal from Councilmember Trayon White a few weeks ago regarding pre-employment drug testing, the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development can lead a comprehensive discussion in the city about drug testing in both the public and private sectors and come up with a common sense set of reforms to pass.

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Statement of Councilmember Grosso on CDC study regarding students who trade sex for survival needs

For Immediate Release: 
May 16, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, (202) 724-8105

Statement of Councilmember Grosso on CDC study regarding students who trade sex for survival needs

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement from Councilmember David Grosso, chairperson of the Committee on Education, on a new analysis of Youth Risk Behavior Survey results that found 7.4 percent of D.C. high schoolers have exchanged sex for money, a place to stay, food or something else of value, as first reported by WAMU:

“Students turning to trading sex for survival needs is a stunning failure of the District of Columbia to aid the youth who need our support most. What is most frustrating is that we know these kids. We have the opportunity to help them every day when they step foot into our school buildings. Yet we do not meet them where they are with the services they need.

“How can we demand academic excellence from them and put them on the path to a successful future when they do not know where they will rest their head that night or where their next meal is coming from? The study also notes that these students are at a greater risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. If these students do not have access to food and shelter, it's unlikely they have regular access to medical treatment.

“Compounding these disadvantages, D.C. continues to take a failed law enforcement approach to the sex trade. While I helped end the prosecution of minors involved in commercial sex in 2014, they are still subject to arrest. Adults are still fully criminalized, even though these conditions of poverty do not change when someone turns 18. Criminalizing those who engage in sex work directly undercuts their efforts to leave behind homelessness or hunger, while exposing them to greater physical and health risks. Arrest records become a barrier to other income sources or opportunities, leaving them with fewer options than before. It’s a trap.

“Despite this upsetting state of affairs, I believe we continue to make progress. We have included more money in this year’s budget to support homeless youth and provide greater access to food. I have been meeting with education leaders to address our rising HIV and STI rates among youth through comprehensive sexual education and reproductive health resources in schools.

“However, to say ‘We need to do more’ is a gross understatement. We need to provide additional social, behavioral, and physical health supports in our schools, policies I have pursued during my time as chairperson of the Committee on Education. It’s also time for a new approach to how D.C. handles sex trade, from one of criminalization to one that is focused on health and safety.”

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Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation Education Amendment Act of 2019

Organ, Eye, and Tissue Donation Education Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: January 22, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmember Anita Bonds

BILL TEXT

Summary: To amend the Healthy Schools Act of 2009 to require that District of Columbia Public Schools and Public Charter Schools provide education on the process of making an anatomical gift, including information about the life-saving and life-enhancing effects of organ, eye, and tissue donation to help students become better informed.

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Grosso re-introduces bill to assess public health impacts of new development

For Immediate Release:
January 22, 2019
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso re-introduces bill to assess public health impacts of new development

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today proposed legislation that would promote healthier individuals and communities by requiring new development projects to receive an analysis of its health impacts before proceeding.

“New housing and transportation can have profound impacts on the health and well-being of individuals and communities, yet these impacts are often not sufficiently evaluated,” said Grosso. “As the District of Columbia continues to grow, with new development projects emerging every day, it is imperative that we assess how these projects positively or negatively affect the health of our residents.”

The Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2019 creates a health impact assessment program within the Department of Health to evaluate the potential health effects of proposed projects on individuals and communities and to support healthy communities, healthy community design, and development that promotes physical and mental health by encouraging healthy behaviors, quality of life, social connectedness, safety, and equity.

Through this legislation DOH will be able to examine all projects that require an environmental impact statement–such as those relating to new construction, roadway changes, and others–to determine their impact on physical activity, mental health, food and nutritional choice, noise levels, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and a host of other factors.

“I am committed to improving the health and wellness of every D.C. resident,” Grosso said. “Implementing this comprehensive approach here in D.C. would help to promote sustainable development, improve and reduce health inequities, encourage cross-sector collaboration, and inspire a greater appreciation for public health in the policymaking process.”

Councilmembers Brianne K. Nadeau, Vince Gray, Elissa Silverman, and Anita Bonds joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019

Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: January 22, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Vincent Gray and Brianne K. Nadeau

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To amend the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998 to authorize the dispensation of medical marijuana to and use by qualifying patients over the age of 21 at safe-use facilities, to allow qualifying patients, upon application to the Mayor for a medical marijuana registration identification card, to immediately purchase medical marijuana on a provisional basis, subject to the approval or rejection of a registration application, to eliminate the limit on the number of marijuana plants that cultivation centers are permitted to grow, and to allow for the delivery of medical marijuana to qualified patients.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Today I am introducing the Medical Marijuana Patient Health and Accessibility Improvement Amendment Act of 2019.

We are all concerned with the ongoing tragedy of D.C. residents dying from opioid overdoses—this bill is another part of the effort to stop that crisis.

Research shows that states with robust medical marijuana programs have lower rates of opioid overdose deaths.

While we have made significant improvements to our medical marijuana program over the past few years, there is more we can do to expand access for patients, and bring more people into the regulated market.

This bill would allow for same day access to medical marijuana just like any other medicine by allowing for a provisional registration when a patient submits their paperwork to the Department of Health.

The bill would allow dispensaries to establish safe use facilities so that patients can consume medical marijuana outside of their home, which would address the challenge that many patients face of having nowhere to consume.

There are a number of other improvements to the program as well, such as removing the plant count limit, and allowing more residents affected by the war on drugs to be employed in these businesses.

Improving access makes sense when we are in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis, but it also is an appropriate response to the challenges we face as a result of congressional interference with our local efforts to regulate marijuana.

Due to Representative Harris’ rider on our budget, residents are being diverted from the medical marijuana program to the unregulated, easy to access, underground market.

That is posing real problems for the small business owners in the medical marijuana community, and our whole medical marijuana system could be in jeopardy if we don’t take action.

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Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2019

Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2019

Introduced: January 22, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Vincent Gray, Brianne K. Nadeau

BILL TEXT | PRESS RELEASE | FACT SHEET

Summary: 

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Chairman Mendelson. This morning, along with my colleagues, Councilmembers Vincent Gray and Brianne Nadeau, I am introducing the Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2019.

Research indicates that there are myriad factors outside of the traditional health scope that shape health-related behaviors.  Economic sectors such as housing and transportation can have profound impacts on the health and well-being of individuals and communities and yet these impacts are often not sufficiently evaluated.

As the District of Columbia continues to grow, it is imperative that we assess how development and other projects positively or negatively affect the health of our residents, particularly in light of the enormous health disparities across the city by ward and by race.

Under this legislation, a Health Impact Assessment Program will be established within the Department of Health to ensure that we are properly evaluating the potential health effects of construction and development projects on our residents and the communities they call home.

Health impact assessments rely on quantitative, qualitative and participatory techniques, to determine health impacts, the distribution of those impacts within communities and identify mitigation strategies to address adverse effects.

Through this legislation D.C. Health will be able to examine projects such as those relating to new construction, mixed-use development, use modifications, changes to roadways, traffic calming solutions and more to determine their impact on physical activity, mental health, food and nutritional choice, noise levels, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and a host of other factors.

Implementing this comprehensive approach here in the District of Columbia would help to promote sustainable development, improve and reduce health inequities, encourage cross-sectoral collaboration, and inspire a greater appreciation for public health in the policymaking process.

I am committed to improving the health and wellness of every D.C. resident and this legislation is an important step toward accomplishing that goal.

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Grosso proposes bill to assess public health impacts of new development

For Immediate Release:
October 16, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.286.1987 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso proposes bill to assess public health impacts of new development

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today proposed legislation that would promote healthier individuals and communities by requiring new development projects to receive an analysis of its health impacts before proceeding.

“New housing and transportation can have profound impacts on the health and well-being of individuals and communities, yet these impacts are often not sufficiently evaluated,” said Grosso. “As the District of Columbia continues to grow, with new development projects emerging every day, it is imperative that we assess how these projects positively or negatively affect the health of our residents.”

The Health Impact Assessment Program Establishment Act of 2018 creates a health impact assessment program within the Department of Health to evaluate the potential health effects of proposed projects on individuals and communities and to support healthy communities, healthy community design, and development that promotes physical and mental health by encouraging healthy behaviors, quality of life, social connectedness, safety, and equity.

Through this legislation DOH will be able to examine all projects that require an environmental impact statement–such as those relating to new construction, roadway changes, and others–to determine their impact on physical activity, mental health, food and nutritional choice, noise levels, accessibility for individuals with disabilities, and a host of other factors.

“I am committed to improving the health and wellness of every D.C. resident,” Grosso said. “Implementing this comprehensive approach here in D.C. would help to promote sustainable development, improve and reduce health inequities, encourage cross-sectoral collaboration, and inspire a greater appreciation for public health in the policymaking process.”

Councilmembers Brianne K. Nadeau, Vince Gray, and Brandon Todd joined Grosso as co-introducers of the legislation.

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Grosso calls on MPD and USAO to suspend sex work-related arrests and prosecutions in the wake of website closures

For Immediate Release:
April 9, 2018
 
Contact:
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 - mnocella@dccouncil.us

Grosso calls on MPD and USAO to suspend sex work-related arrests and prosecutions in the wake of website closures

Washington, D.C. – The following is a statement by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on the government shutdown of websites that allowed sex workers to operate with a greater degree of safety than on the streets:

“The latest government attacks on online platforms used by sex workers are directly undermining the safety, health, and human rights of these individuals. I am deeply concerned as I read the reactions of D.C. residents who will be pushed into less safe situations on the streets where they will be subjected to more violence, have decreased ability to negotiate condom use, and encounter greater risk of arrest, making them less likely to contact authorities if they are attacked. In working with communities in D.C. over the past few years to develop better policy approaches to the issue of commercial sex, I have heard far too many personal stories of violence and harm as a result of the criminalized nature of the sex trade.

“Rather than work on the streets, sex workers have utilized a number of websites that allow them to better screen clients and negotiate safer interactions. Several of those websites closed in the past week following Congressional approval of a pair of bills, SESTA and FOSTA. This legislation is alleged to combat human trafficking, but there is little evidence that it will accomplish that noble goal. In fact, the two bills were opposed by the largest network in the country of organizations serving human trafficking survivors. Rather than help people who are being coerced into commercial sex, the effect of these website closures will be to push trafficking further underground. This also has the effect of harming innumerable people involved in the sex trade who are not being coerced but, by a complex combination of choice and circumstance, are seeking to earn money. The sweeping nature of the legislation also undermines the work of harm reduction organizations that work with these communities, thereby preventing the provision of critical services.

“Due to the great risk of violence faced by street-based sex workers, our government needs to take bold and urgent action. I call on Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham and U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu to temporarily suspend arrests and prosecutions of those involved in commercial sex unless the individual has caused violence or coercion. Instead, the Chief and U.S. Attorney, along with front-line officers and commanders, should meet with individuals trading sex with the goal of understanding the risks they face and what steps are necessary to build trust in order to prevent and respond to violence and coercion. I am happy to work with both MPD and USAO to facilitate such a meeting.

 “We must remember that there are human beings’ welfare and lives on the line. We have a responsibility as government officials to look out for those who our society and laws marginalize. We should be pursuing evidence-based solutions to stop coercion and help minors who are exploited, including by addressing the demand for housing, food, employment, rationale immigration laws, and respect for human rights.”

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Reducing Criminalization to Improve Community Health & Safety Amendment Act of 2017

Reducing Criminalization to Improve Community Health & Safety Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: October 5, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmember Robert White

FACT SHEET & SECTION BY SECTION | BILL TEXT | RESOURCES & STATISTICSCOALITION CONTACTS | PRESS RELEASE

Summary: To repeal an Act for the suppression of prostitution in the District of Columbia; to amend an Act in relation to pandering, to define and prohibit the same and to provide for the Punishment thereof to remove certain criminal penalties for engaging in sex work in order to promote public health and safety; to repeal Section 1 of an Act to enjoin and abate houses of lewdness, assignation, and prostitution, to declare the same to be nuisances, to enjoin the person or persons who conduct or maintain the same and the owner or agent of any building used for such purpose, and to assess a tax against the person maintaining said nuisance and against the building and owner thereof; to repeal An Act to confer concurrent jurisdiction on the police court of the District of Columbia in certain cases; and to create a task force to assess the impact of this legislation and recommend further reforms to improve community safety and health by removing criminal penalties for engaging in commercial sex.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Good morning. I am At-Large D.C. Councilmember David Grosso, and I am pleased to be here with community members and the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition.

As you may know, all my work on the Council is based in the human rights framework.

That commitment includes speaking out for the human rights of the most marginalized communities, including sex workers.

I believe that we as a society are coming to realize that excessive criminalization is causing more harm than good, from school discipline to drug laws to homelessness.

It is time for D.C. to reconsider the framework in which we handle commercial sex—and move from one of criminalization to a focus on human rights, health, and safety.

That is why today I am announcing the introduction of the Reducing Criminalization to Improve Health and Safety Amendment Act of 2017.

I developed this legislation in close partnership with the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition, and the bill is in line with recommendations from Amnesty International, the World Health Organization, U.N. AIDS, Human Rights Watch, and numerous other expert organizations.

The bill is quite simple really—it repeals a number of laws, or parts of laws, that criminalize adults for exchanging sex for money or other things of value.

By removing criminal penalties for those in the sex trade, we can bring people out of the shadows, help them live safer and healthier lives, and more easily tackle the complaints we hear from communities about trash or noise.

Some of the laws that this bill would repeal are over a hundred years old, showing how the criminalization approach has been a total failure.

There is plenty of other evidence that this approach puts people at risk for violence, inhibits the fight against HIV, and results in the exact opposite of what the laws purported intentions, but I will leave that to my fellow speakers to describe in greater detail.

The bill does not change any of our laws regarding coercion or exploitation, which will continue to be prohibited. Nor does it change how minors involved in sex trade are considered.

Sex workers themselves are often some of the best-positioned people to identify and help people in situations of exploitation, and by removing the criminal sanctions on them, we can improve our efforts on that front.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me work on this legislation and I also want to appreciate all the sex worker activists who have spoken out for their human rights, from Sharmus Outlaw here in D.C., to Gabriela Leite in Brazil, to countless others around the world.

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Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017

Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: September 19, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Vincent Gray, Robert White, Brianne K. Nadeau

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT

Summary: To amend the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998 to increase access to the program by qualified patients by establishing same-day registration and allowing patients to qualify without a doctor’s referral and delivery to patients, establish safe-use treatment facilities to allow consumption outside of the home, allow dispensaries and cultivation centers to relocate and expand operations to meet patient demand, and amend requirements for licensees.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

I am introducing the Medical Marijuana Improvement Amendment Act of 2017, and I thank Councilmembers Gray, Nadeau, and Robert White for joining me as co-introducers.

This legislation, along with the previous bill, will further bolster our responses to the opioid crisis.

Research shows that states with robust medical marijuana programs have lower rates of opioid overdose deaths.

While we have made significant improvements to our medical marijuana program over the past few years, there is more we can do to expand access for patients, and bring more people into the regulated market.

This bill would allow for same day access to medical marijuana just like any other medicine by allowing for a provisional registration when a patient submits their paperwork to the Department of Health.

It would also allow patients who may not have a primary care provider, or whose doctor does not want to recommend medical marijuana, to self-certify that they are seeking medical cannabis.

The bill would allow dispensaries to establish safe use facilities so that patients can consume medical marijuana outside of their home, which would address the challenge that many patients face of having nowhere to consume.

There are a number of other improvements to the program included as well, such as requiring that employees or owners of medical marijuana businesses be D.C. residents, removing the plant count limit, and allowing more residents affected by the war on drugs to be employed in these businesses.

Improving access makes sense when we are in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis, but it also is an appropriate response to the challenges we face as a result of congressional interference with our local efforts to regulate marijuana.

Due to Representative Harris’ rider on our budget, residents are being diverted from the medical marijuana program to the unregulated, easy to access, underground market.

That is posing real problems for the small business owners in the medical marijuana community, and our whole medical marijuana system could be in jeopardy if we don’t take action.
 

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Safe Access for Public Health Amendment Act of 2017

Safe Access for Public Health Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: September 19, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmember Vincent Gray

FACT SHEET | BILL TEXT

Summary: To amend Title 25 of the D.C. Official Code to remove possession of certain drug paraphernalia for personal use as a grounds for denial of a license; to amend Title 47 of the D.C. Official Code to remove possession of certain drug paraphernalia for personal use as a grounds for denial of a license; to amend the District of Columbia Uniform Controlled Substances Act of 1981 to remove penalties for possession of certain drug paraphernalia for personal use; to amend the Drug Paraphernalia Act of 1982 to allow possession of certain drug paraphernalia for personal use; and to amend the District of Columbia Appropriations Act of 2001 to remove the prohibition on the operation of needle exchange programs in certain areas of the District.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

I wrote this legislation, along with a bill I will introduce next to improve our medical marijuana program, as a response to the opioid crisis that we face in D.C., much like the rest of the country. 

Last year, we recorded 216 opioid-related deaths, nearly triple the number in 2014.

Meanwhile, we continue to face an HIV epidemic, even as our evidence-based needle exchange programs have dramatically reduced new infections since we were freed from Congress’ prohibition of these life-saving activities. 

This bill takes the next step in those efforts by allowing people to possess drug paraphernalia for personal use.

This is most important for improving access to clean syringes to prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, but there is also new technology that can save lives in other ways.

Drug testing kits allow people who are using heroin to test the strength of their drugs to avoid overdose, including detecting the presence of fentanyl or carfentanil, the opioids largely responsible for the increase in overdoses.

But these kits would be prohibited as drug paraphernalia under current law.

The Safe Access for Public Health Amendment Act also repeals a congressionally imposed law from years ago that severely restricts the geographical area in which our needle exchange programs can operate.

That law, like so much that Congress forces on us, was not based on any scientific evidence. To the contrary, research shows that the law limits the efficacy of our harm reduction efforts.

We need to consider every evidence-based approach that might help us roll back the tide of overdoses, while also continuing our important progress stopping the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. 

To that end, today I also sent a letter to Department of Health Director Dr. Nesbitt asking her to examine how D.C. could establish supervised injection sites, where injection drug users could be monitored to prevent overdoses and be connected to treatment.

I hope that Dr. Nesbitt and her team will find a way forward, and that she will also make the overdose prevention medication Narcan more available to our constituents, including by issuing a standing order to allow people to get Narcan over the counter at any pharmacy in the District. 

September is Pain Awareness Month and Overdose Awareness Day just passed on August 31, reminding us of the urgency we must have in our response to these issues. 


 

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