2017-2018 Regular Session - HB 161
Drug related objects; employees of harm reduction organizations are not subject to certain offenses; provide
Sponsored By
First Reader Summary
A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Code Section 16-13-32 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to transactions in drug related objects, so as to provide that employees and agents of harm reduction organizations are not subject to certain offenses relating to hypodermic needles; to provide for related matters; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes.
Status History
Feb/22/2018 - Senate Read and Referred
Feb/21/2018 - House Passed/Adopted By Substitute
Feb/21/2018 - House Third Readers
Feb/14/2018 - House Committee Favorably Reported By Substitute
Mar/30/2017 - House Withdrawn, Recommitted
Feb/22/2017 - House Committee Favorably Reported By Substitute
Jan/31/2017 - House Second Readers
Jan/30/2017 - House First Readers
Jan/26/2017 - House Hopper
2/21/2018 Modified Structured Rule
Feb/21/2018 - House Vote #535Yea(169)Nay(1)NV(4)
Past Versions


Police to church: plan to help drug addicts is not allowed

Posted: Jan 15, 2018 9:16 PM ESTUpdated: Jan 16, 2018 4:30 AM EST

Based in a Canton strip mall, Action Church wants to be known as the place worship for people who you wouldn't normally expect to see in church.

"We have addiction meetings here every night of the week, basically, and we're always looking for ideas outside of the box to reach those who might feel disconnected from church, disconnected from God," said Pastor Gary Lamb.

That's why he thought running a needle exchange program out of his church would be a natural fit. People addicted to heroin and similar drugs could come to his church with a used syringe and exchange it for a clean one.

A man our news crew met outside the church can attest to the need for such a service, describing how needle sharing amongst addicts is a regular thing.

"We believe that's what Jesus would do. He would meet people right where they're at. To be with them before the time they realize they need help. That way, when they do realize they need help, maybe they've been able to avoid HIV, maybe they've been able to avoid hepatitis, or any of the diseases that go along with needle use," said Lamb.

Canton Police got wind of the idea through social media, and told the Pastor, 'Not so fast.' The only person who can run a needle exchange is a medical professional. A church is, apparently, not allowed.

"It was never our intention to break the law. Maybe we got a little overzealous. We saw programs all over the state that were doing it. We just thought anybody could do that," explained Lamb.

Pastor Lamb hasn't found a way to make his needle exchange work under the current laws, but he's not giving up his search for a solution.

Copyright 2017 Meredith Corporation (WGCL-TV) All rights reserved.


Canton church proposes needle exchange program

- It's not a new concept, but it's certainly not an idea anyone would expect from a church. A metro Atlanta pastor has proposed drug users turn in used needles for clean ones at his church.

Pastor Gary Lamb, of Action Church in Canton, said a congregation member came to him with the idea, but not everyone is as supportive of the proposal. The community is giving mixed reactions to the church’s idea.

Rev. Lamb said it is one of many ideas on the table to help his community. He said he has gotten a lot of positive feedback, as well as negative backlash.

“It's an idea that will probably get implemented. I mean, you know, I think we'll try it, and we'll see if it works. If it works, great. If it doesn't work, then we won’t do it, we'll try something else,” said Lamb.

Lamb admits it is unorthodox and highly controversial, especially for a church, but he believes it might be the best way to reach those in need. Recently, he asked his congregation for ways to help his community. Congregation member James Hatfield, who is a recovering addict, came up with letting addicts come to their church to exchange used needles for clean ones.

“It helps bring the spread of diseases down. It also just helps with just having clean needles. I know it's something that's hard to understand,” said Hatfield.

“First instinct was kind of, ‘Oh, whoa, is that endorsing? Is that enabling? That makes me very uncomfortable.’ And then at the end of the day, I got to thinking about it, looking at the stats, reading, and researching, and the fact of the matter is, you know, addicts are going to use. But what we do have control over is offering a program that maybe keeps them as healthy as possible,” said Lamb.

The pastor put his message on his personal Facebook page and said he’s been inundated with close to a thousand comments as of Thursday. He’s gotten messages, threats, and even had the health department and the police called on him.

Pastor Lamb started the church five years ago and has watched it grow. The church has the largest food pantry in the city, a clothing pantry, serves as the only emergency shelter, and just this Thanksgiving delivered 2,500 meals.

“Even if it doesn’t work, what have lost, you know what I mean? I mean, we’re not populating the number of addicts, they still using, you know what I mean? If anything we’re just trying to keep them safe in the midst of their misery, in the midst of their mess,” said Lamb.

The reality is that Lamb’s plan can’t legally happen. Late Thursday afternoon, the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad commander posted on the task force’s Facebook page stating that it is illegal to distribute needles unless it is done so by a pharmacist.

Authorities said they have pledged to help Pastor Lamb find other ways to help those with an addiction in their community.