Lawmakers debate decriminalizing drug possession

Mainer Anne Perry’s invoice would decriminalize drug possession for private use and alter it to a civil offense.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Anne Perry has labored for years as a nurse practitioner in Calais and stated she has a lot of expertise making an attempt to assist individuals combat habit.

In Perry’s different job, as a state consultant to the Legislature, that have has led her to some robust opinions about medication.

“For over 50 years, the nation has waged a struggle on medication that has not labored,” Perry instructed members of the Legal Justice Committee Friday. 

She is sponsoring a invoice this yr, LD 967, to make a dramatic change to state legislation. Perry’s invoice would decriminalize drug possession for private use, that means these discovered with medication would not face felony expenses or potential jail time. As a substitute, it will be a civil offense with the selection of a $100 advantageous or assembly with a skilled habit specialist or medical supplier.

“They’re truly having interplay with a therapy supplier or counselor, so that they know there’s somebody who understands what they’re coping with,” stated Perry of her plan.

She is getting assist from plenty of medical doctors and from those that work in habit restoration, all of whom say jail just isn’t the place for many of these with drug habit. 

“In 2018, over 1,700 individuals have been arrested for easy drug possession, when they need to have been supplied entry to therapy and restoration assist companies as a result of that’s what we all know works,” stated Courtney Allen of the Maine Restoration Advocacy Venture.

 Maine legislation enforcement, together with the MDEA, which is a part of the Mills Administration, is opposing the invoice. MDEA Director Roy McKinney stated in written testimony that the company might assist some adjustments to drug possession coverage, however decriminalizing it goes too far.

“Decriminalization of those medication sends a blended message that fails to acknowledge how harmful these medication are and normalizes their possession,” said McKinney.

District Attorneys are additionally opposing the invoice. Cumberland County DA Jonathan Sahrbeck stated Friday that whereas he understands the arguments towards jail, arrest can generally save lives.

“Sadly, opioids and fentanyl and methamphetamines, they’re so highly effective and individuals are struggling a lot from substance abuse dysfunction that oftentimes the felony justice system is that factor that triggers anyone stepping into restoration.” 

Perry stated her invoice might have adjustments, together with extra element on permissible drug portions. The lawmakers on the Legal Justice Committee will wrestle with all of that, however can have just a few weeks to resolve if decriminalizing ought to transfer ahead or not, or if it must be held over till subsequent yr for additional examine.

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