In Vermont, there are plans to introduce bills that would decriminalize a variety of drugs.
Safety Through Legalization and Regulation Needed in Vermont
Vermont has had a public crisis over the years—people overdosing on illicit substances. This is a growing concern across the entire country, but by November of 2020 the number of overdose deaths that year had risen to 134. This is almost a 25% increase from their 2019 report of 99 people who had overdose deaths. There is some hope, though, as lawmakers have begun demonstrating an understanding of the severity of this problem; some are even actively trying to introduce legislation to fix it.
Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George is one of the primary figures concentrating on passing legalization that will help address the problem of drug abuse and overdosing. George went on to say “Drugs are not illegal because they are dangerous, but they are certainly more dangerous because they’re illegal. Everything is safer when it’s legalized and regulated, and legal drugs are safer than illegal drugs.” George has been a major proponent of drug reform activism.
Another leader involved in helping end this crisis is Assemblymember Evan Low, who is a co-sponsor of the decriminalization bill. He said, “This bill is part of a larger push to end the failed War on Drugs, which has disproportionately harmed underserved communities of color. Our bill helps to lead us on a path to decriminalizing substance abuse so we can focus on providing addiction treatment instead of paying for jail cells and ignoring the larger problem.”
Drug Reformers Who Are Taking the Lead in Vermont
The individuals mentioned before are all in on fixing this problem, but one person stands out amongst them all. State Representative Brian Cina also wants to remove penalties for those who use any plant and fungi kind of psychedelic, this includes: psilocybin, DMT, ibogaine, and even mescaline. “Humans have had a close relationship with plants and fungi that goes back to the very beginning of humanity. But the legacy of colonization has left us with the criminalization of these medicinal, spiritual, religious, entheogenic medicines.”
Cina is obviously in tune with the basic principles of plant medicine and believes that policies can and should be reformed to allow for safe access. “In general there’s many of us trying to decriminalize human behavior that’s become sort of stigmatized and judged by others but the main impact is on the person, the greatest impact is the health impact on the person and the social impact.” Cina said.
Of course while many activists and lawmakers are working to reform drug laws, there are many staunch opponents to the movement who want to maintain the status quo. Attorney General TJ Donovan went on a podcast and said, “Philosophically I would struggle with trying to understand how the public safety or the public health would be improved by the decriminalization of heroin. I think we have it: We have marijuana, we have alcohol.” Donovan used to be anti-marijuana, but later became open to and even embraced legalization and regulation as a way of addressing drugs as a public health policy. Perhaps his mind will be receptive to additional information regarding psilocybin and other plant medicines as time progresses.
Dave Silberman is a Vermont attorney who expends a significant amount of effort working to reform drug laws in the state. Silberman said, “as a party, we’ve fully recognized that the War on Drugs has completely failed to reduce problematic drug use, and in fact fuels the racial biases we see in policing today, all without contributing to public safety.” As Vermont moves toward potential modifications to its drug laws, we will continue to educate the community with top information of why drugs should be legalized and destigmatized.
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