Vermont health chief on bill decriminalizing small amounts of buprenorphine

Vermont News

MONTPELIER, Vt. (WFFF) — On Thursday, Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine weighed in on a proposed bill that would lessen the penalty for carrying a small amount of buprenorphine in Vermont.

The drug is proven to reduce opioid relapses and overdose deaths, but right now, Chittenden County is the only place in Vermont you can carry small amounts without a prescription. H.225 would decriminalize possession of up to 224 milligrams of buprenorphine statewide.

Levine said he supports the concept and motivation behind the proposal, but wondered whether it could be risky in a state that has arguably made more progress than any other when it comes to fighting the opioid epidemic.

“If I was the commissioner of any other state in the U.S., I would be unequivocally for this bill,” he said. “Vermont is different. We don’t know what flooding the streets with buprenorphine – which is how it’s been characterized by some—means in a state with no waiting lists and the true capacity to treat all.”

At the federal level, the Biden Administration released new guidelines Tuesday that will allow more medical providers to prescribe buprenorphine.

In Chittenden County, opioid overdose deaths dropped by 50% in 2018, the same year they stopped prosecuting people for possessing the drug. The House passed H.225 on April 8.

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