Shumlin signs two drug-related bills into law - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Shumlin signs two drug-related bills into law

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Vermont's legal books get a bit thicker Tuesday, as Governor Peter Shumlin, D-Vermont, signed two more drug-related bills into law.

The new measures should translate into more access to care for addicts and harsher penalties for suppliers. It will be up to prosecutors to determine what to do, when both descriptions fit one person.

Over the last two years, lawmakers rewrote much of the language governing opiates, the key chemicals in powerful painkillers and hard drugs like heroin.

"This is a health care challenge. We have to get more people into treatment; we also have to be tougher on the dealers and people bringing this poison into Vermont. We've got to give our prosecutors the tools that they need to be able to make the right decision," said Shumlin.

"This law is really going to be a transformative law in the State of Vermont," said T.J. Donovan, Chittenden County State's Attorney.

Donovan notes that the vast majority of prisoners are ultimately released. He says if their addiction isn't addressed, they'll return to their associated life of crime.

The first new law diverts those who commit addiction-driven crimes into treatment avoiding court rooms altogether.

Those who bring a gram of heroin into the state, the price for which can be $180 out-of-state but $600 here face up to 10 years behind bars.

"It strikes the right balance. It's tough on people who deal drugs but also compassionate for people who are struggling with addiction," said Donovan.

Donovan says it would be up to prosecutors to determine how to prosecute those who mule drugs to feed to pay for their addiction.

"And as a result we should see potentially a drop in detention at some later date. That won't happen immediately that will happen somewhere down the road," said Andy Pallito, Vt. Corrections Commissioner.

Pallito also says the new law will offer faster withdrawal treatment behind bars and overdose reversal medication for those who are released and can't resist the urge to get high.

The other law signed by the Governor puts new restrictions on pawn dealers.

It requires them to keep more information on sellers and hold items they buy for at least 10 days before resale.

The second law is aimed at eliminating the stolen currency addicts use to fund their habits, while the other measure works on breaking the addiction and demand.

Befor the bill signing, the Governor traveled to the Greater Boston area to chat with fellow New England Governors about tackling opiate abuse as a region.

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