MONTPELIER – This week, a group of Vermont lawmakers introduced a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs.

House Bill 644, which was introduced by 42 Progressive, Democratic and Independent lawmakers, would eliminate criminal penalties for drug possession for personal use.

“Continued criminalization only upholds a system that disproportionately impacts BIPOC and poor Vermonters. Instead of focusing on how to create opportunities for people to find the help they need, we are clinging to a system that leads to the worst possible outcomes for both individuals, Vermonters, and our communities as a whole,” said Rep. Selene Colburn, a co-lead sponsor of the legislation.

The bill would also establish a treatment referral system, set up a board of drug policy experts to determine appropriate personal use threshold levels for each drug, and create a financial incentive for people with substance use disorder to participate in a health needs screening.

“As Vermont struggles with a serious overdose crisis, unrelenting racial biases in our criminal justice system, and incarceration’s high cost to taxpayers, we must ask ourselves whether a system that criminally punishes individuals for non-violent personal-use possession of drugs makes sense or advances our goals involving pressing issues of public health and racial justice,” said Rep. Logan Nicoll.

H.644 was introduced in the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

In the coming weeks, Decriminalize Vermont, a coalition in support of drug policy reform, will be releasing a list of organizations in support of the changes.