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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Lawsuit: Inmate Died After Being Held in Solitary for Drug Withdrawal

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2019 at 5:06 PM

David Bissonnette - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • David Bissonnette
A Vermont prison inmate was placed in solitary confinement for drug withdrawal and died for want of adequate medical care, his family alleges in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

David L. Bissonnette, 38, of Burlington, died on November 22, 2016 of bacterial endocarditis, a heart infection often associated with intravenous drug use, a few hours after an ambulance rushed him from Northwest State Correctional Facility in Swanton to a hospital.

Bissonnette had been arraigned on November 7, 2016, on charges that he failed to appear in court, violated conditions of release and stole a laptop. He could not afford to post $4,000 bail, the suit says, so he was sent to prison. During intake, he revealed to staff that he had been taking buprenorphine, an opioid-addiction medication.

"[O]fficials who assigned Bissonnette to segregation expected Bissonnette to be going through withdrawal (as they would not let him continue to use buprenorphine)," the suit contends.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

Vermont Senate Committee Approves Retail Cannabis Bill

Posted By on Fri, Feb 15, 2019 at 11:45 AM

The Senate Judiciary Committee - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • The Senate Judiciary Committee
By a 4-1 vote Friday morning, the Vermont Senate Judiciary Committee backed a bill to create a regulated retail cannabis market in the state.

The legislation, which will move to the Senate Finance and Appropriations committees before consideration by the full Senate, would establish a statewide Cannabis Control Board tasked with setting up regulations and a permitting system for Vermont.

Senate Judiciary Committee chair Dick Sears (D-Bennington) said that the legislation may get a full Senate vote before Town Meeting Day, which falls on March 5.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Opioid Deaths Rise in Vermont but Plummet in Chittenden County

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 5:59 PM

Howard Center CEO Bob Bick - KATIE JICKLING
  • Katie Jickling
  • Howard Center CEO Bob Bick
Fatal opioid overdoses in Chittenden County decreased in 2018 to the lowest level in at least six years, local and state officials announced Thursday. The number of deaths fell by 50 percent, from 35 in 2017 to 17 last year.

The recently released Vermont Department of Health data offers "measurable evidence we are in fact advancing as a community," Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said. About two dozen health officials, law enforcement officers, politicians and nonprofit leaders touted the progress at a press conference in the Queen City.

At the same time, the total number of Vermonters who died of an opioid overdose continued to increase. The state tallied 110 such deaths in 2018, up from 108 the previous year. The total sets a new record for opioid-related deaths in Vermont.

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Vermont Senate Bill Would Lower Barriers for Opiate Treatment

Posted By on Thu, Feb 14, 2019 at 3:28 PM

  • Sean Metcalf
Lawmakers in the state Senate are expected to vote on a bill next week that would cut down on administrative delays for Vermonters seeking treatment for opiate addiction.

The proposed legislation would force insurance companies to automatically cover drugs used in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) without requiring doctors to get prior authorization from the insurer.

Advocates and physicians supporting the legislation say patients can struggle while awaiting that approval.

“It can be two days before that would be authorized,” said Dr. Kathleen McGraw, the chief medical officer at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. “When somebody’s coming in and saying, ‘I’m ready for help,’ in two days they will be going through dramatic withdrawals.”

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Friday, February 8, 2019

Vermont House Bill Would Allow Legal Cannabis Sales Next Year

Posted By on Fri, Feb 8, 2019 at 1:14 PM

Rep. Sam Young (D-Greensboro) - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Rep. Sam Young (D-Greensboro)
A new bill proposed by Rep. Sam Young (D-Greensboro) would allow adults in Vermont to legally purchase weed on January 1, 2020.

Young’s legislation to establish a regulated retail cannabis market is similar in many ways to a Senate bill, S.54, introduced last month. But the House measure, H.196, would allow existing medical marijuana dispensaries to pay a $75,000 fee so that they could sell to the general public at the beginning of next year. The state would then continue to iron out details about the regulatory structure of the recreational market before other dispensaries could open in April 2021.

In addition to giving Vermont’s would-be cannabis customers an earlier start, Young said the licensing fees would “get some funds in order to create the board and the regulated market.”

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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Vermont Attorney General Wants a Regulated Weed Market

Posted By on Thu, Jan 31, 2019 at 2:19 PM

Attorney General T.J. Donovan in the Statehouse - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Attorney General T.J. Donovan in the Statehouse
For the first time, Vermont's attorney general has voiced strong support for taxing and regulating cannabis.

“We have to have a regulated market,” T.J. Donovan told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday morning.

The state's top law enforcement officer said his “position has evolved” since last year, when he supported a measure that legalized adult possession and home cultivation of weed but didn’t allow sales.

That policy hasn’t worked, according to Donovan, who now supports S.54, a bill that would allow legal pot sales.

“We’ve seen that we can’t tell Vermonters that they can possess marijuana and be silent about how to obtain it because capitalism exists and is only going to grow in this area,” Donovan said.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Feds Say Burlington Pot Shop Owner Possessed Guns, Sold to Minors

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2019 at 5:53 PM

Burlington City Hall is reflected in Good Times Gallery's window. - JOHN JAMES
  • John James
  • Burlington City Hall is reflected in Good Times Gallery's window.
Updated 10:25 p.m.

Authorities seized a loaded handgun, five ounces of marijuana and more than $11,000 in cash during a Tuesday raid on a Church Street business, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan alleged in a two-count criminal complaint that Good Times Gallery owner Derek Spilman possessed a firearm while distributing marijuana. In court papers, authorities said that Spilman had sold pot to minors, including a young woman who allegedly became ill after consuming a bag of edible gummies.

Spilman was released on conditions Wednesday after an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Burlington. Speaking to the press after the hearing, Nolan said the presence of firearms in the store was “a very significant factor” in the feds’ decision to take action, as was the store’s location on a prominent pedestrian thoroughfare.

Nolan noted that marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal law. And though she acknowledged that Vermont legalized the personal possession and cultivation of pot last summer, she said, “This conduct is not even close to legal under state law.”

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Before Legal Pot Sales, Health Department Wants Millions for Education, Prevention Programs

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2019 at 5:22 PM

Health Commissioner Mark Levine, right, speaking with the Senate Judiciary Committee - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Health Commissioner Mark Levine, right, speaking with the Senate Judiciary Committee
Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine wants lawmakers to budget millions of dollars for cannabis education and prevention programs before the state starts collecting revenue from legal retail pot stores.

During a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Wednesday morning, Levine said that data show an alarming increase in youth marijuana use in recent years and urged lawmakers to fund programs that would nip the problem in the bud.

The commissioner told lawmakers there is a “growing consensus” among scientists that weed is harmful to developing brains. He said youth use of the drug has been shown to cause “both acute and chronic forms of psychosis.”

“The relationship is quite firm now, and the rates are alarming,” he said.

Levine issued his warning as the committee considers S.54, a bill that would establish a state regulatory authority to oversee the cultivation, processing and retail sale of cannabis to adults. Under a timeline laid out in the measure, the first retail licenses would be issued by April 1, 2021.

Fifteen of the Senate's 30 members are listed as sponsors of the bill.

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Madelyn Linsenmeir, Whose Obit Went Viral, Died of Infection

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 7:31 PM

Madelyn Linsenmeir, center, at her booking in Springfield, Mass. - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Madelyn Linsenmeir, center, at her booking in Springfield, Mass.
A Vermont woman who died last year after her arrest in Massachusetts had a once-rare heart infection that has been on the rise among injection drug users. Madelyn Linsenmeir's death was felt around the world after an obit that dealt frankly with her drug abuse went viral.

MassLive reported Thursday that the Massachusetts state medical examiner listed "consequences of septicemia in the setting of tricuspid valve endocarditis" as Linsenmeir's immediate cause of death.

Septicemia is a blood infection. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart. People who inject drugs are at an especially high risk for endocarditis because bacteria from skin or syringes can enter their veins and reach the heart.

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Madelyn Linsenmeir to Cops in Booking Video: 'I'm Very Ill Right Now'

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2019 at 7:46 PM

Madelyn Linsenmeir, center, on September 29, 2018 - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Madelyn Linsenmeir, center, on September 29, 2018
Video of the booking room at the Springfield, Mass., police department on September 29 captured a distressed Madelyn Linsenmeir asking for water and medical care as officers methodically went through the booking routine and ignored her requests.

Several days later, on October 7, the Vermont woman died at a Massachusetts hospital. She'd battled drug addiction for years.

A poignant obituary for Linsenmeir, written by her sister Kate O'Neill, went viral. O'Neill wrote that the family hoped her sister's story would help others let go of the stigma related to addiction. (After it ran, Seven Days hired O'Neill for a special reporting project on the ongoing opiate crisis.)

Linsenmeir's family members are also looking for answers about their loved one's final days. The family, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, sued the Springfield PD in November, seeking video and other information related to her arrest.

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