Veto Reaffirms Drug War Mentality & Leaves in Place Crack Cocaine vs Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparities
Montpelier, VT – In response to Governor Phil Scott vetoing H. 505, bipartisan legislation that would have helped move Vermont toward a public health model for drug use and low-level possession and would have eliminated the state’s racist disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine penalties, Grey Gardner, Senior Staff Attorney at the Drug Policy Alliance, released the following statement:
“The Governor’s veto of this bipartisan and common-sense legislation is extremely disappointing and misguided. Despite half a century of enforcement-first approaches to drugs, we have seen no reduction in supply or demand. Yet, what we have seen is that racial disparities have devastated communities. And we are now experiencing record lives lost due to an adulterated drug supply that is a direct result of the drug trade’s efforts to avoid interdiction. We are out of time to continue doubling down on these failed approaches, and instead must address the root causes with an approach that is fully vested in overdose prevention and public health. That is what this bill would have taken a first step towards. Contrary to the Governor’s statement, it would not have taken any steps to legalize drugs.
“However, what it would have done is bring together public health, treatment, harm reduction and drug policy experts, along with law enforcement and directly-impacted individuals to address the overdose crisis with constructive, evidence-based solutions, rather than clinging to a drug war mentality of criminalization, stigmatization, and punishment.”
The bill, H. 505, was developed at least partially in response to a report by the Council of State Governments released in January finding that “Black people are arrested 3–4 times more frequently than White people for drug offenses” and that “Black people were over 14 times more likely than White people to be defendants in a felony drug case each year.”
The advisory board that would have been created by the legislation would be composed of experts in drug use, harm reduction, substance use disorder treatment, and law enforcement, and would specifically require participation by individuals who have lived experience with drug use and consumption practices.