FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 20, 2022
Contact: Stephanie Gomory, Communications Director, [email protected]
Montpelier, Vt. - Yesterday, Vermont Governor Phil Scott vetoed H.505, a bill that would have ended Vermont’s racist disparity between crack cocaine and cocaine penalties and created a public health advisory board to make recommendations for transitioning Vermont’s drug policies away from failed “war on drugs” strategies to a public health-centered approach.
The following statement can be attributed to ACLU of Vermont Executive Director James Lyall:
“Five decades into the failed ‘war on drugs,’ a record 210 Vermonters died of overdoses last year, a public health disaster. Meanwhile, a recent study found that Black people in Vermont are disproportionately incarcerated for certain drug offenses, while white defendants are more often given alternatives to incarceration – further evidence of systemic racism in Vermont's legal system.
“H.505 would have helped to address both of these urgent crises by creating a panel of harm reduction, addiction, prevention, and law enforcement experts to advise the State on how to transition away from criminalizing people with substance use disorder. In addition, the law would have eliminated the racist crack cocaine vs. cocaine trafficking penalty disparity – a disparity with no scientific basis and devastating real-world impacts.
“The governor's veto letter provides minimal justification, largely deferring to law enforcement leaders who consistently oppose public safety reforms – including those favored by overwhelming majorities of Vermonters. By giving police – and not public health experts – final say over drug policy, the governor appears more interested in continuing the failed war on drugs than in pursuing meaningful public health solutions, criminal law reform, and racial justice.
“In a year in which more Vermont residents died of overdose than at any point in our history, after years of mounting evidence that the drug war is racist, cruel, and counterproductive, and despite resounding calls for a more humane, just, and effective public safety system, Vermont's governor and police leadership are still ‘all in’ on the failed status quo. Their approach will continue to cause profound harm to our communities.”