Wednesday, a joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Human Services committees sat down to address Vermont's growing methamphetamine problem. The discussion began last month as legislators reviewed the merits of one proposal. Now, bill by bill, they're trying to knit together about a dozen measures into one plan.
"We realized there's a bigger picture here," said Rep. Andy Donaghy, R-Poultney.
"Just realized we needed to address it as a really comprehensive approach," said Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield.
The committees focused on monitoring cold medications that can be used to synthesize meth. The proposal before them would require pharmacies to connect to an online registry, alerting clerks if individuals have already made similar purchases elsewhere. The model is based off a recently enacted Maine law.
"You've got an educated workforce, put us to work," said Ronald Klein, the executive officer at the Vermont Board of Pharmacy.
Klein says customers shouldn't need a prescription to obtain cold meds. However, he says adding a requirement for a consultation with the pharmacist upon purchase would further dissuade criminals.
And Vermont State Police demonstrated to legislators the signs and science behind makeshift labs. Law enforcement's right to access the registry represents one of the few divides between legislators Wednesday.
"We need to help law enforcement, not put barriers in front of them," Donaghy said.
"Clearly the police do need to have access in situations where there's evidence of a crime and they can get a warrant to do that," Donahue said.
The core concept is simple, but legislators say crafting a comprehensive measure that deals with opiate addiction, diversion and maintains the adequacy of pain medications would be an enormous accomplishment.
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