Democratic and progressive Vermont lawmakers introduced a new bill this week to decriminalize drug possession — a policy they hope will serve as a harm reduction tool that can also help address racial disparities in enforcement.
Representatives Logan Nicholl (D-D) and Celine Colborne (B) introduced the legislation, which would punish the possession and distribution of low levels of currently illicit drugs with a fine of $50, without the threat of imprisonment. The fee can be waived by completing a health examination which will be facilitated by a new treatment referral system.
The bill would amend state law on drug possession and distribution to make it liable to a civil penalty if the amount of the drug in question falls below the “standard personal use” limit to be set by the new Drug Use Standards Advisory Board. .
This board will consist of “experts in the areas of general and behavioral health care, treatment of substance use disorders, and drug user communities,” according to the letter of the law.
The proposal would eliminate criminal penalties for sharing small amounts of currently illegal drugs without compensation.
Already, 40 initial sponsors have signed up to support the proposal — nearly a third of the Vermont House Council. Colborne told Marijuana Moment in an interview Tuesday that she wants to see the legislature handle the issue in a way that it treats lawmakers in other states — such as nearby Maine, where The House of Representatives approved a bill to decriminalize last year.
The lawmaker said she is “talking with a lot of people on the front lines, a lot of people with live experience, and the vast majority of those people will share that participation in the justice system has been an obstacle and a barrier to their recovery, or even just their access to life-saving medications or reduction tools.” Harm “.
“We’re trying to be really clear in talking about this bill that the vast majority of drug users are not people with a substance use disorder,” Colborne said. So this is definitely a civil liberties issue as well. But for the people who [do have substance misuse disorders]The effects of criminalization have caused and continue to cause a lot of damage.”
It found that african-americans are six times more likely to be imprisoned in Vermont than white people. They are also about three to four times more likely to be arrested for drug offenses despite similar use rates between races. In drug crime cases, blacks were 14 times more likely to be a defendant than whites.
Dave Silberman, Addison County’s top attorney and free advocate for drug reform, told Marijuana Moment that introducing the bill with such a large number of signed lawmakers signals a shift in how elected officials handle drug issues.
“Whether or not this decriminalization bill gets passed, I think it’s really important that we have a conversation in the legislature about decriminalization as a harm reduction tool and as a tool to reduce the racial disparities that we see in police and prisons in Vermont that are really terrible.”
“We just need a more holistic view of harm reduction for our drug problem in Vermont in order to save lives and keep people alive — not imprison them because prison isn’t working,” Silberman said. “In fact, we’re seeing that when people go into prison with an opioid use disorder, they get out of prison, and they’re much more likely to die of an overdose than if they never went in.”
Colborne and Nicole introduced similar decriminalization legislation last year, but she did not progress. The hope is that since there is a broader, less partisan consensus that criminalizing people with drugs is the wrong approach, legislative leaders will at least agree to hold hearings on the reform proposal in the coming weeks.
Also this year, Colborne will introduce a separate bill to allow overdose prevention sites in the state — a policy its advocates say will provide another important harm-reduction tool. And while she’d like to see her broader proposal for decriminalization, the lawmaker also noted that there is strong bipartisan interest in a separate reform to invalidate convictions for certain drug offenses by making them a misdemeanor instead.
New decriminalization invoice He also has the support of the National Drug Policy Alliance, as well as other advocacy groups such as the Vermont ACLU.
“Historically, drug use has been treated as a crime rather than a chronic disease, and Vermont laws have used a traditional punitive criminal justice model that has proven to fail to improve public health and reduce the criminality sometimes associated with drug use,” the findings section of the bill says.
“Following a decriminalization model for personal use of controlled amounts of drugs will allow Vermont to redirect money and resources from prosecution and imprisonment toward prevention, harm reduction and treatment strategies that provide better outcomes for all Vermonters,” she says.
separate invoice for Eliminate criminal penalties for plant and fungal materials Such as psilocybin, mescaline, ibogaine, and DMT were introduced last year by Rep. Brian Cina (P/D) and are still alive for the two-year legislative session.
Outside Vermont, bills have been put in place to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms and reduce penalties for large-scale nonviolent drug offenses. Advance advance to 2022 in neighboring New Hampshire.
These countries could legalize marijuana or the drug in 2022