Vermont Democratic and Progressive lawmakers filed a new bill this week to decriminalize drug possession—a policy they hope will serve as a harm reduction tool that can also help to address racial disparities in enforcement. Reps. Logan Nicoll (D) and Selene Colburn (P) introduced the legislation, which would make possession and distribution of low levels of currently illicit drugs punishable by a $50 fine, without the threat of jail time. People could have the fee waived by completing a health screening that would be facilitated through a new treatment referral system. The bill would amend state statutes on drug possession and distribution to make it so people would face the civil penalty if the amount of the drug in question is under a “benchmark personal use” threshold that would be determined by a new Drug Use Standards Advisory Board. That board would be comprised of “experts in the fields of general and behavioral health care, substance use disorder treatment, and drug user communities,” according to the text of the bill. The proposal would further remove criminal penalties for sharing small amounts of currently illicit drugs without compensation. Already, 40 initial cosponsors have signed up to support the proposal—nearly one-third of the Vermont House. Colburn told Marijuana Moment in an interview on Tuesday that she wants to see the legislature engage with this issue in a way that lawmakers in other states have—like nearby Maine, where the House approved a decriminalization bill last year.
Kyle Jaeger, Marijuana Moment, 01/14/2022 08:10:00