No rational, compassionate West Virginian wants government to do anything that might encourage people to abuse drugs. So a proposal aimed at reducing the number of people who die of drug overdoses needs to be viewed with extreme caution.
It may be that the idea should be given a long, hard look, however.
West Virginia has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation, at 28.9 per 100,000 residents in 2010. It has been suggested some of those people die because those around them – often drug abusers themselves – are afraid of being prosecuted if they seek medical help for overdose victims.
A few legislators have expressed interest in something already being done in 17 states. There, people seeking help for overdose victims are granted at least partial immunity from prosecution for drug offenses.
The possibility that it encourages some people to abuse drugs should not be overlooked, of course. If so, the idea should not be considered in West Virginia.
But legislators should study it. It could be a way to save lives.