DENVER (CBS4) – Two Colorado congressmen helped introduce legislation to ban the use of ketamine as a tool of restraint outside of a hospital setting. Reps. Joe Neguse and Jason Crow introduced the Ketamine Restriction Act nearly two years after the death of Elijah McClain in Aurora.
McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, was walking home from a convenience store wearing a ski mask in August 2019 when someone called 911 to report a suspicious person. Arriving officers tried to arrest McClain, who resisted and was not armed.
Officers put McClain in a carotid hold and an Aurora Fire Department paramedic injected him with 500 mg of ketamine, a sedative. McClain suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital and was taken off life support days later. The coroner’s office listed McClain’s cause and manner of death as undetermined.
The Ketamine Restriction Act would require state and local agencies to prohibit the use of ketamine outside of a hospital setting before they can receive federal criminal justice funding through the Byrne grant.
“While no legislation can bring Back Elijah or ease his family’s pain, we must learn from this injustice,” stated Crow.
“Our bill builds on legislation recently passed by the Colorado legislature to enact a federal prohibition on ketamine for arrests and detention, other than at a hospital. This is common-sense and it’s imperative we get it done,” added Neguse.
Earlier this month, the Colorado Legislature passed a bill to further regulate how EMS providers administer ketamine in a prehospital setting. The legislation allows trained EMS providers to administer ketamine only if the required equipment is available and first responders have properly assessed the patient’s weight. The legislation aims to prevent police from unduly influencing the use of ketamine during an arrest.
In May, Crow introduced the Use of Force Accountability Act, which would require states to mandate independent investigations into use of force incidents that result in death or injury. Crow said the bill was in direct response to the city of Aurora’s independent review of the death of Elijah McClain.