Should Safe Injection Sites Be Legalized?

Blog#196- 4/3/24

by Richard Davis

Rhode Island and New York City allow people addicted to drugs to inject themselves at safe injection sites without fear of prosecution. The drugs these people use are illegal but they are given a pass if they go to one of these sites. Vermont is about to pass legislation that would allow cities and towns to set up these sites if the local municipal body approves it.

The bill, H. 72, has passed the Vermont House and is now in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and is expected to be passed into law. Governor Scott has made it clear that he will veto this bill, so the big question is whether or not there will be enough votes to override his veto.

It is important to understand what this bill aims to do because any Vermont town could be allowed to set up a safe injection site. It states “This bill proposes to eliminate criminal and civil penalties for operation of a safer drug consumption program; repeal the crack statute; repeal the sunset of the decriminalization of small amount of buprenorphine; establish the Drug Use Standards Advisory Board within the Vermont Sentencing Commission for determining benchmarks for personal use dosage and personal use supply for regulated drugs; and require the Sentencing Commission to use benchmark recommendations from the Drug Use Standards Advisory Board to make recommendations regarding adjustments in the amounts for possession, dispensing, and sale of regulated drugs.”

Most studies indicate that safe injection sites save lives. They are in place in some other countries There are about 100 safe injection sites in Europe , Canada and Australia and there have been no deaths in any of these sites. Studies indicate that these sites reduce overdose deaths and provide greater access to health care services.

When the sites were first proposed in Canada it was a contentious issue and the Canadians have conducted a number of studies that indicate that these sites do not increase the use of illegal drugs. Those are some of the “pro” issues.

Safe injection site discussion has the ability to polarize communities. It is clearly not a black and white issue and there are host of factors that must be considered. Some people are strongly in favor of Vermont moving in this direction and others are just as strongly opposed.

If the bill override happens then some communities may be in the position of having to decide if they will set up one of these sites. Will drug addicts be attracted to sites if there are only a few in Vermont and will those communities that have them be subject to an influx of addicts?

Where is the best place to set up these sites? It is unlikely that any local businesses or residents will embrace the idea of having a safe injection site next door. But in order for the sites to be successful they have to be accessible to people who generally lack options for personal transportation.

Some people might argue that allowing some people to be immune from prosecution while others could go to jail for simply engaging in the same activity in a different place sends mixed signals to society. The drugs that all of these people use are still illegal and just because they are used in a safer setting and suddenly no longer illegal may send the wrong message to addicts but also to people who may be coursing in and out of rehab.

The injection sites will offer people information about health care best practices and most likely will steer them towards rehab. But in the current climate where rehab has been shortened to unrealistic times by insurance companies, most addicts who have been through rehab know how hard it is to get off opiates or methamphetamine in two weeks and then be on the street and homeless again.

We need to weigh all of these issues now because safe injection sites may be coming to your community soon.

Disclaimer: The thoughts and ideas expressed here are my personal ones and are in no way connected to my role as a Brattleboro selectboard member.

Comments | 1

  • o boy

    This is going to take a lot of thought and talk. I don’t even know what to think. But I predict a stink. A big stink.

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