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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

Push For Safe Injection Sites Sidelined In Montpelier, For Now

Senate Judiciary chairman Dick Sears is looking to modify Vermont's domestic terrorism laws as a way to deal with future cases of violence
Angela Evancie
VPR File
Bennington County Sen. Dick Sears says he's not sure Vermonters are ready to embrace safe injection sites for opioid users, despite data showing the facilities decrease overdose deaths and increase the number of addicts seeking treatment.

Legislation that would have enabled safe injection sites for opioid users looked like it might be gaining momentum in Montpelier this year, but a key Senate committee is now backing away from the plan.

After listening to compelling testimony from recovering addicts and drug treatment experts, numerous lawmakers say they’ve gone from opposing safe injection sites to supporting the concept.

But Sen. Dick Sears, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says he’s taking the bill off the table, for 2018 at least.

“We want to make sure that this is the right policy for Vermont before we go jumping into it. We’d be the first state in the nation,” Sears said Friday.

Sears says his committee has asked the governor’s Opioid Coordination Council to examine the proposal in the off-session before lawmakers consider it again. The bill would have insulated workers and addicts at safe injection sites from criminal liability under state laws.

Even if Vermont lawmakers give safe injection site workers criminal immunity under state law, however, the U.S. attorney for the district of Vermont, Christina Nolan, has indicated that the feds would not turn a blind eye.

Sears says the threat of federal prosecution for safe injection site workers also figured into his committee’s decision to table the bill for 2018.

Sears says he’s open to bringing the legislation back up for consideration in 2019.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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