Vermont decriminalizes possession of opioid addiction drug

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Gov. Phil Scott has signed a bill into law decriminalizing possession of the opioid use disorder treatment drug buprenorphine.

The measure decriminalizes possession of up to 224 milligrams of the drug by people without a prescription, WPTZ-TV reported.

“This is an issue of saving lives and it’s a path towards people seeking medically supervised treatment,” Rep. Ann Pugh, a Democrat from South Burlington, said.

The governor raised some concerns.

“Although I remain skeptical, I signed this bill because it is well-intentioned and offers another potential approach to reduce the impacts of substance use disorder,” he wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

Cameron Lauf, associate director of the Turning Point Center of Chittenden County, a peer-run recovery center, believes the bill can help reduce the stigma associated with substance use and recovery and will have far-reaching impact.

“Passing this bill can help change the societal culture that recovery is possible, that it’s ok, that individuals can be ok,” Lauf said.

Brenda Siegel, who lost her nephew to opioids, hopes the measure will help break down barriers to recovery.

“Every day that someone chooses buprenorphine over heroin, they won’t die that day. And that’s a day that their family gets to still have their loved one around,” Siegel said.

The bill will expire after two years, giving experts an opportunity to assess its effectiveness.