Change in Chemical Restraints Law

On his way home from a convenience store, Elijah McClain was 23 in August of 2019 when he was stopped by police officers who were responding to a call about a suspicious person. The police violently wrestled him to the ground and first responders administered a dose of ketamine to Elijah that would have been appropriate only for a person weighing 200 pounds. Elijah McClain was only 143 pounds.  On his way to the hospital, Elijah McCain went into cardiac arrest. Days later, he was declared brain dead, and was taken off life support. 

In response, the Colorado State Legislature passed House Bill 21-1251 to substantially limit a first responder’s use of chemical restraints, such as ketamine. This new law includes several commonsense measures such as requiring first responders to do the following:

  • Complete training in the proper administration of ketamine
  • Weigh any person they would administer ketamine to before administering the drug  
  • Monitor the effects of the drugs after its administration
  • Never administer ketamine in the absence of a justifiable medical emergency   

This bill also creates penalties for police officers who continue to misuse ketamine. Under this new law, police officers who witness another police officer using ketamine to restrain an individual must file a report within ten days of the occurrence or else be guilty of a class-one misdemeanor.  

Hopefully, these heightened requirements and new penalties imposed on police officers and first responders will prevent another tragedy like the one that occurred. Additionally, we hope that this will be the first of many such reforms.