Governor Peter Shumlin says that the new law decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana should allow law enforcement to deal with a more pressing drug problem in Vermont.
“I would argue, that if you want to talk about the biggest threat to our downtowns, to our quality of life, to a low crime rate, which we’ve always enjoyed in this state, to our family members being destroyed by an epidemic, it’s opiates," said Shumlin. "It’s heroin. It’s Oxycontin. It’s all of the issues that are driving crime in this state.”
U.S. Attorney Tris Coffin calls heroin and opiate abuse the largest public safety risk in Vermont right now. Coffin says admissions to drug treatment programs have increased dramatically for heroin since 2009. He says prescription drug abuse has led to the increased use of heroin.
“A lot of time the economics drive it because it’s so much more expensive to get prescription medications on the street than it is heroin," said Coffin. "And if your options to get prescription medications start turning off, that doesn’t mean your addiction does.”
The new recently adopted opiate addiction bill require doctors and pharmacies to participate in a prescription monitoring system. Coffin says that’s a good tool to fight the increased use of heroin and will supplement law enforcement, education and prevention.