According to a new poll, Vermont voters overwhelmingly support the decriminalization of currently illegal drugs and the treatment of drug addiction as a public health issue.
The survey released Thursday by Data for Progress and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) found broad bipartisan support for the basic principle of decriminalization, as well as specific legislation to achieve this reform that was introduced this year but not has not advanced.
More than four in five Vermont voters (84%) said they favor removing criminal penalties for simple drug possession, imposing a civil fine instead of incarceration, and allocation of resources for treatment and harm reduction, as proposed by legislators.
That support includes majorities of Democrats (91%), Republicans (68%) and independents (87%), according to the poll.
Overall, 81% of voters said they were in favor of treating drug use as a health issue, compared to just 17% who said they thought people who use illicit substances should deal with it. criminal sanctions such as imprisonment.
Again, support for a public health approach to addiction stretched across partisan lines, with 91% of Democrats, 59% of Republicans and 84% of Independents agreeing with the statement that ” we should treat drug use as a health problem, focusing on inferring the harm of addiction and offering voluntary treatment, health and recovery services.
“With Vermont having one of the highest increases in overdoses in the nation last year, it is clear that the current approach of criminalizing people who use drugs is not working to keep people safe. In fact, it only made it worse,” DPA senior counsel Gray Gardner said in a press release. “This survey makes it abundantly clear that Vermont voters want a different, health rather than arrest and punishment.”
In addition, the survey showed that half of respondents have either personally suffered from an addiction or overdose, or know someone close to them who does. These direct links can be a contributing factor to strong support for harm reduction reform policies.
Most voters (65%) also said they would be more likely to support a political candidate for state or federal office if they passed drug decriminalization. It’s a finding Gov. Phil Scott (R) might want to consider, as he recently vetoed a bill that would have charged a state panel with standardizing personal use amounts of various drugs. illegal, which advocates saw as a first step toward broader reform.
A decriminalization bill was also tabled last year, but like this session’s version, it too did not receive a vote.
In addition to decriminalization, the majority of respondents also said they supported the creation of non-police crisis response teams for drug-related incidents (68%), the removal of criminal records for possession of drugs (60%) and the creation of overdose prevention sites (59%).
Regarding the latter policy, Scott also recently vetoed a bill that would have created a task force to develop a plan to open safe consumption sites where people could consume drugs currently illegal in a medically supervised environment.
The survey involved interviews with 547 likely voters from May 26 to June 8, with a margin of error of +/- four percentage points.
“Our poll shows Vermont voters strongly support changing the way the state approaches drug use. Voters are not only personally impacted by addiction and overdose, but support more humane approaches to drug use. drugs, such as guiding individuals toward recovery and treatment, rather than continuing cycles of arrest, incarceration, stigma, and marginalization,” Data for Progress concluded in its report.
“Voters are also receptive to voting for candidates who would prioritize this kind of approach to drug use,” he said. “Vermont lawmakers should continue to advocate for decriminalization policies and measures that have the support of their constituents.”
Meanwhile, another Vermont bill to remove criminal penalties for herbal and mushroom substances such as psilocybin, mescaline, ibogaine and DMT was also introduced last year by Representative Brian Cina (P/D).
On the other side of the country, activists in Washington state recently announced they would not pursue a move to decriminalize drug possession for this year’s ballot, despite a new poll showing a majority of voters in the state support the reform. proposal.
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