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Trying to Stop Heroin from Coming into Vermont

While the fight continues to get Heroin out of Vermont, there's no question how it got here.
MONTPELIER - While the fight continues to get Heroin out of Vermont, there's no question how it got here.

"All of the Heroin is coming from out of the state," said Major Glenn Hall, Commander of the Bureau of Investigation for Vermont State Police. "Usually from major corridors: Interstate 91 coming from Massachusetts, as well as Route 4 on the western side coming from New York."

Major Hall says Vermont is attractive to major drug traffickers because addicts will pay higher prices here.

"It's cheaper in Vermont than it was 10, 15 years ago...but it's still significantly higher than it is in New York City or Springfield, MA."

"I think we need to send a message to drug traffickers and those who are bringing Heroin into our state," said State Sen. Dick Sears (D-Bennington).

While drug trafficking penalties are high (a felony that carries up to 30 years in prison), a person has to bring 3.5 grams of the drug into Vermont in order to get a trafficking charge. That's 105 bags. If someone brings less than that, it drops to just a possession charge. The purpose of the large cut-off is to prevent people bringing small supplies into the state from being "caught in the net of drug trafficking," as Sen. Sears put it. But he still thinks there should be a middle ground.

"People who are bringing large supplies of Heroin into this state, we need to deal with more aggressively."

The Senate's version of the Risk Assessment bill included a provision for a new charge for people transporting Heroin into Vermont, even if they didn't bring enough to be charged with trafficking. The charge would carry 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

"The penalty would be more severe than just a possession charge at the highest tier," said Major Hall. He said someone could be charged with both transporting Heroin and possession. He thinks it's a good idea because of the growing volume of Heroin coming into the Green Mountain State. By Governor Shumlin's estimates, $2 million dollars' worth comes in each week. Major Hall says it's hard to estimate so specifically, but it's definitely going up.

The next step for the new transporting penalties is a conference committee. The House removed the provision from the Risk Assessment bill, so now the House and Senate committee will have to form a compromise by the end of the week.

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