Charlie Buttrey

June 5, 2021

Vermont’s was the first state constitution to abolish slavery. In 1974, my little town of Thetford made national news when it was the first town in the country to vote to encourage its elected representatives to begin impeachment proceedings against President Nixon. In 2000, Vermont became the first state to extend all of the legal rights of marriage to same-sex couples. And Vermont is currently the state with the highest rate of fully-vaccinated people in the country.

One more: Vermont just became the first state to legalize the possession of small amounts of buprenorphine.

Buprenorphine is an important component in the Medically-Assisted Treatment of opium use disorder. It satisfies the craving for opioids which makes quitting the stuff so difficult, and it enables its users to live relatively normal lives while staying away from the stuff that can kill them. It is currently only available by prescription, but many of my clients obtain it through other channels and, when they are found in possession, face criminal charges for possessing a medication that may save their lives.

Will legalization make a difference? Almost certainly. The evidence? In 2018, prosecutors in Chittenden County (the state’s most populous county) decided that they would no longer press charges for people possessing small amount of buprenorphine. That year opioid overdose deaths dropped by 50%.

 

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