House Moves to Restrict Law Enforcement’s Use of Ketamine

DENVER, CO– The House today advanced Representatives Leslie Herod and Yadira Caraveo’s bill to define the appropriate use of ketamine in law enforcement interactions. The bill passed on second reading. 

“For too long, ketamine has been misused during law enforcement interactions and outside of medical settings, and it has had dangerous, even deadly, consequences for Coloradans,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver. “This bill represents a bold step forward in our efforts to improve policing in our state and ensure all Coloradans feel safe and protected by law enforcement.”

“Ketamine is not a drug that should be used lightly or without being able to verify basic medical information like a patient’s weight, medical history, and other relevant factors.” said Doctor Rep. Yadira Caraveo, D-Thornton. “Colorado has already lost far too many lives due to the misuse of this powerful drug. My hope is that by passing this bill we’ll prevent the type of tragedy that took the life of Elijah McClain and so many more from ever happening again.” 

HB21-1251 limits the use of ketamine to subdue an individual in pre-hospital settings. The federal government has scheduled ketamine as a controlled substance due to its associated risk factors, and emergency medical service providers, here referred to as ‘paramedics,’ must seek waivers to administer ketamine since the drug is outside of their standard scope of practice. Studies show that rates of intubation for people injected with ketamine in a prehospital setting are dramatically higher than when it’s administered in an emergency department. The bill prohibits law enforcement from compelling, directing or unduly influencing a paramedic to chemically incapacitate someone by administering ketamine.

For a paramedic to administer ketamine in a prehospital setting with law enforcement present, the paramedic must weigh an individual to ensure accurate dosage and if that’s not possible, at least two people present at the scene must agree with their weight estimation. The paramedic must be trained in the administration of ketamine and must attempt to obtain verbal authorization from a medical director before administering it. Lastly, there must be equipment on site to immediately monitor the person’s vital signs and provide urgent transport to a hospital.

Among other changes, the bill requires a law enforcement officer to intervene and report to the POST board if they see another officer using ketamine on someone, which under the bill would constitute excessive use of force and could lead to permanent revocation of an officer’s POST certification if the incident results in death. Absent a justifiable medical emergency, a paramedic would be prohibited from using ketamine to sedate someone to aid in their arrest or restraint for alleged or suspected criminal conduct.