Vermont’s House Judiciary Committee is considering three drug reform bills, including one that would decriminalize possession of personal amounts of controlled substances, VT Digger reports. The bill to make low-level possession a civil offense carrying a $50 fine — and allowing offenders to be screened for a substance abuse disorder and waive the fee — carries more than 40 sponsors, making it the most supported piece of drug decriminalization legislation in the country, Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, told Digger.
The bill would create a Drug Use Standard Advisory Board, which would include harm reduction, substance use disorder, and treatment and drug law experts, as well as three consumer representatives “who have lived experience in drug use and consumption practices,” the report says. The board would be tasked with determining what constitutes a personal use supply of each decriminalized drug.
Andrew Seaman, the Vermont medical director for Better Life Partners, an addiction treatment organization, told Digger that Vermont is “probably one of the best candidates” for launching such a program “without additional resources,” pointing to the state’s success in treating substance abuse disorders with its hub and spoke program.
“The Hub & Spoke system is a statewide partnership of clinicians and treatment centers that provide medication-assisted therapy to Vermonters who are addicted to opioids,” according to the Vermont Department of Health website outlining the program. “The Hub (treatment facility) & Spoke (physician-led team) ensures that each patient’s care is effective and coordinated, and is supported by the nurses and counselors who work to connect each person with community-based support services.”
There are currently nine Hub treatment facilities throughout the Green Mountain State, according to the Health Department.
All three bills are still awaiting a committee vote.
Only one state, Oregon, has decriminalized low-level drug possession; however, those reforms were approved by voters and not the Legislature.
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