By Guy Page
Drug trafficker levels of cocaine possession are classified as “personal use” in the latest draft of a drug crime reclassification bill, the Vermont State’s Attorney’s office told House Judiciary this morning.
The point of H505 is to “make progress on de-felonizing possession laws,” LaLonde told the committee this morning.
But Evan Meenan, Deputy Director of the Vermont State’s Attorney and Sheriff’s Office, said the latest version of H505 makes a ‘personal use’ misdemeanor of possession of 30 grams of cocaine – 10 times the average “buy” on the street. That’s twice the 14.6 gram threshhold for drug trafficking possession allowed by Massachusetts, and three times the 10 grams permitted by Oregon, a state considered to have drug-crime permissive laws, he said.
“The Department cannot support these changes,” Meenan said. “30 grams of coke, quite frankly, is a lot of coke. It is not consistent with personal use.” 30 grams is worth up to $3000 on the street. Most coke buyers purchase anywhere from a gram to 3.5 grams/one-eighth of an ounce, also known as an “eight ball.”
“This bill would be a drastic departure” from current law and the laws of surrounding states, Meenan warned Judiciary. The bill proposes the creation of a drug sentencing advisory board, so “doing things like raising personal use to 30 grams arguably puts the cart before the horse.”
And speaking of horse – A/K/A cocaine – Meenan said his criticism of the high amount of cocaine permitted for personal use also apply to proposed personal use changes for heroin and other hard drugs.
Meenan’s concern was echoed by Vice-Chair Tom Burditt (R-Rutland Town). He noted that the new statute would increase heroin ‘personal use’ possession by 2.5 times – from “20 bundles to 50 bundles.”
“I am deeply concerned with how much we’re changing all this,” Rep. Ken Goslant (R-Northfield) said. Vermont already has a terrible problem with youth overdosing on fentanyl, he said.
Lalonde, Grad, and committee member Selene Colburn (P-Burlington) all said the bill creates a Drug Use Standards Advisory Board, “to determine, for each regulated and unregulated drug, the benchmark personal use dosage and the benchmark personal use supply.”