The U.S. is in the midst of an overdose crisis. And we all want to keep people safe and alive. Despite more than five decades of investing in punitive and racially inequitable drug policies, Vermont continues to experience unprecedented numbers of drug overdoses.
Criminalizing people for drugs harms them psychologically, physically, and economically. It has not fulfilled its promise of keeping us safer. It’s done the opposite. It creates barriers to work, housing and available services. Even the fear of arrest pushes many people away from services that may help them remain safe and healthier.
It’s time for a new approach rooted in health. Legislation introduced in the Vermont General Assembly would take crucial steps forward by decriminalizing drugs and preventing tragic overdose deaths. H. 423 and the identical Senate version, S. 119 would end criminal penalties for simple drug possession while creating better connections to services for those who need and want them. These bills would set up a system shaped by experts in drug use, harm reduction, treatment and recovery and help refocus resources on efforts to keep people safe from overdose.
We need your help to move these bills forward. Tell your legislators to pass decriminalization legislation now and build a health approach to drugs in Vermont.