Crow Helps Introduce Legislation to Ban Use of Ketamine During Arrests, Two Years After the Death of Elijah McClain

June 14, 2021
Press Release

This Follows Legislation Crow Introduced Last Month to Require Independent Investigations After a Police Officer’s Use of Deadly Force

WASHINGTON - Today, Reps. Jason Crow and Joe Neguse introduced the Ketamine Restriction Act, legislation that would ban the use of ketamine during an arrest or detention, other than in a hospital. The Colorado Congressmen introduced the legislation alongside Congressman Jerry Nadler, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee; Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Chair of the U.S. Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security; and Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Mondaire Jones.

Specifically, the legislation would ensure that no state or local agency could receive Byrne grant funding unless first certifying a prohibition on the use of ketamine for arrest or detention. 

The bill comes nearly two years after the tragic death of Elijah McClain in Aurora, Colorado. In August 2019, Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old Black man, was stopped by Aurora police officers. During the stop, police put him in a chokehold and multiple officers pressed their body weight into him. Paramedics were then called and injected McClain with 500 milligrams of ketamine. After incorrectly estimating his weight, the paramedics administered more than 1.5 times the dose he should have received, according to medical standards. McClain suffered cardiac arrest, was declared brain dead and taken off life support less than a week later.

Last month, Crow introduced the Use of Force Accountability Act, legislation that would require states to have a law mandating independent investigations after any use of deadly force that resulted in a death or injury. The bill was a direct response to Aurora’s independent review of the death of Elijah McClain. Among other findings, the review discovered that, “the post-event investigation was flawed and failed to meaningfully develop a fulsome record,” and recommended serious changes in how officer use of force is investigated.  

“Elijah McClain should still be alive today. While no legislation can bring Back Elijah or ease his family’s pain, we must  learn from this injustice. As a legislator, our community deserves more than my thoughts and prayers, they deserve action. The Ketamine Restriction Act would ban the use of ketamine during arrest and detention and can help prevent future tragedies. I thank Rep. Neguse for his partnership on such important legislation,” said Congressman Jason Crow. 

“In far too many circumstances ketamine is being used to help effectuate arrests without a full appreciation of the health risks,” said Congressman Joe Neguse. “The tragic death of Elijah McClain in Colorado underscores the clear need to rethink the use of this drug in cases of arrest and detention to ensure nothing like this ever happens again to a member of our community. 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.”

“Ms. Sheneen McClain strongly supports the federal legislation to ban the use of ketamine for arrest and detention.  This legislation will undoubtedly save the lives of many civilians who would otherwise be subjected to this highly dangerous drug.  The use of ketamine on Elijah McClain contributed to his tragic, senseless, and brutal death.  Ketamine is extremely dangerous and should never be used strictly for law enforcement purposes,” said Qusair Mohamedbhai, an attorney for Ms. McClain, Elijah McClain’s mother. 

“We must take all appropriate steps to ensure that when arrests are necessary, they are conducted safely for everyone involved,” said House Judiciary Chairman Nadler. “I am deeply concerned about the use of ketamine or other chemical restraints during arrests, which can be particularly dangerous if not administered in a health-care setting. That’s why I’m joining Congressman Neguse in introducing legislation that will ban the use of this harmful practice nationwide.” 

“The use of ketamine to sedate individuals in police custody is an outdated and unjust practice that must be brought to an end,” said Congressman Mondaire Jones. “Time and again, ketamine has been administered at police direction without a proper medical basis, killing multiple Black men. As we work to reimagine policing in America, we must root out police violence in all its forms, including the use of ketamine as a sedative. I’m proud to join Rep. Neguse and our colleagues in introducing this important legislation to do exactly that.”

“As we continue the critical work to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act through the Senate, we must take additional immediate steps to end police brutality, increase accountability of law enforcement, guarantee justice, and deliver transformative change across our country,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. “Prohibiting the use of ketamine during arrest and detention is an urgent matter of civil rights, civil liberties, racial justice, and protecting the lives of those in our communities.”

Paramedics across Colorado have sedated people more than 902 times with ketamine in the two and a half years, according to state public health records.