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Panel Set To Debate State Drug Legislation


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MONTPELIER – Vermonters with a wide range of opinions on how the state should handle illegal drugs – from decriminalization to instituting the death penalty for serious dealers – will be on hand during a daylong meeting on the topic this week.

Thursday's conference in Montpelier will feature Barre Mayor Thomas Lauzon, Windsor County State's Attorney Robert Sand and Middlebury College President John McCardell Jr., all discussing their proposed approaches to dealing with the drug problem.

The event is hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont and is the latest in its annual conferences on top policy issues. Executive Director Allen Gilbert said the goal of the conference is to "bring people together with differing viewpoints to discuss the problem and suggest solutions."

"Hopefully, this will start that broad discussion about our drug policies," Gilbert said.

The conference begins with an opening address from Sand, the state's attorney who made headlines recently for suggesting the state should take a new look at its drug policies, including possibly decriminalizing marijuana.

Sand said Vermont needs to review its policy toward all drugs and balance the "harm of use of the illegal drugs with the harm of our response." For example, Sand said marijuana use is rarely connected with violent crime and often the punishment causes more harm than its recreational use.

"I'm advocating taking a public health approach with drugs," Sand said. "We need to do a substance-by-substance analysis."

The conference continues at the first panel of the day with Barre Police Chief Tim Bombardier, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Darrow, Kevin Ryan, the Vermont Bar Association director of education and communication, Anne Saxman of the Vermont Defender General's Office and Lauzon, the Barre mayor who advocates legalizing marijuana and sentencing heroin dealers to death.

The subject of the panel: Is a new drug policy warranted?

Gilbert said the ACLU's policy toward illegal drugs comes down to a "privacy issue, to a large extent." The organization believes that drug abuse is mostly a health issue, he said.

"The big question we have is, how to balance a person's right to engage in this behavior with the right of the communities?" he said.

The day continues with a panel on drugs and addiction featuring substance abuse professionals and a representative from the Vermont Prisoners' Rights Office. McCardell, who advocates lowering the drinking age from 21 to 18, will give a speech early in the afternoon.

The final panel of the day focuses on the state's alcohol laws and features a liquor investigator, police officials, a defense attorney and state college officials.

The conference is scheduled from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Capitol Plaza in Montpelier.

Newshawk: CoZmO - 420Magazine.com
Source: Rutland Herald (VT)
Author: Daniel Barlow
Contact: daniel.barlow@rutlandherald.com
Copyright: 2007 Rutland Herald
Website: Panel set to debate state drug legislation: Rutland Herald Online
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