Matt Sutton 212-613-8026
New York, N.Y. – Today, Data for Progress and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) released new polling data showing that more than four out of five (84%) Vermont voters, including a majority of voters across all major demographic groups and party affiliations, support removing criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of drugs. The poll also found that 81% of voters support reframing the state’s approach to drug use as a health issue with a focus on reducing the harms of addiction and offering health and recovery services.
“With Vermont having one of the highest increases in overdoses in the country last year, it’s clear that the existing approach of criminalizing people who use drugs isn’t working to keep people safe. In fact, it has only made things worse,” said Grey Gardner, Senior Staff Attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance. “This survey makes it abundantly clear that Vermont voters want a different approach – one focused on health rather than arrest and punishment.”
During the 2022 Vermont legislative session, a group of 42 Democratic, Progressive, and Independent state legislators sponsored a groundbreaking bill, H.644, that would decriminalize possession of small “personal use” amounts of drugs. In hearings on the bill on January 21, 2022, DPA Executive Director Kassandra Frederique testified before the House Judiciary Committee that “the continued criminalization of personal drug use risks the continuation of Vermonters being ensnared in a criminal legal system that will increase harm to individuals and communities, and not reduce harm. It is crucial for us to decouple help from criminalization.”
The legislation received strong support, led by @DecriminalizeVermont, a broad, Vermont-based coalition of organizations dedicated to social and economic justice, including criminal justice, drug policy, and law enforcement reform dedicated to creating a healthier and more just Vermont by reducing the harms and injustices embedded in Vermont’s current drug law.
The survey also found that two thirds (65%) of voters indicated they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports eliminating criminal penalties for possession of small quantities of drugs in Vermont.
Strong majorities of voters polled also supported the establishment of non-police crisis response programs (68%) and overdose prevention centers (59%), and removing criminal records for drug possession (60%).
“What’s clear from this poll is that Vermont voters want to prioritize preventing overdose and ending the harms of criminalization, and they want their elected officials to take leadership on this,” said Gardner.
The survey was conducted by Data for Progress and the Drug Policy Alliance between May 26 and June 8, 2022 among 547 likely voters in Vermont, with a margin of error of +/-4.0%.