HI: Honolulu Becomes First US City to Require Anti-Overdose Drug Naloxone in Bars and Clubs
‘It will hopefully set an example for other cities throughout the United States,’ a city council member said
By Scott McDonald
January 3, 2024
Honolulu is the first city in the U.S. to mandate such a law.
“Naloxone is a necessary tool these days in light of the national opioid epidemic. It should be available and accessible in as many places as possible, in the same way we have fire extinguishers and defibrillators in case of emergencies,” city council member Tyler Dos Santos-Tam told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“This new law will not only save lives, it will hopefully set an example for other cities throughout the United States.”
The opioid crisis in Honolulu has increased over the years, with Hawaii’s capital city seeing a 364% increase in opioid-overdose deaths from 2019 to 2020.
In June 2023, there was a mass overdose incident at the Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort that resulted in two deaths and three hospitalizations. Police said they found fentanyl at the scene.
The incident prompted Dos Santos-Tam in July to introduce Bill 28, the country’s first legislation of its kind. Mayor Rick Blangiardi signed the bill into law later that month and it went into effect this week.
Four months prior, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted over-the-counter approval to Narcan, the trade name of the naloxone opioid-reversal medication.
Naloxone hydrochloride nasal spray is a prescription medicine used for the treatment of an opioid emergency. Those emergencies could be an overdose or a possible opioid overdose with signs of breathing problems and severe sleepiness or not being able to respond.
Robbie Baldwin, who owns the nightclub Scarlet Honolulu in Chinatown, said the law is a good way for “law-abiding business owners” not being punished for opioid incidents at their establishments.
“Overdoses happen, especially when mixed with alcohol,” Baldwin said. “I do not want to see well-meaning and law-abiding business owners being punished for an overdose that occurs — beyond their control — on their property. This bill helps prevent this worst-case scenario.”
Opioids are a class of drugs that include heroin, synthetic opioids like fentanyl or legally prescribed pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine and morphine, among others, the state’s Department of Health stated.
Honolulu Liquor Commission is expected to administer and enforce the new naloxone law.
The Liquor Commission and Dos Santos-Tam’s office have so far distributed 469 naloxone kits to local taverns and nightclubs. There are 869 businesses that have a liquor license.
Any business in violation of the law will receive a fine of no more than $200.