Drugs | Off Message | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice


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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Monday, January 7, 2019

Overdoses Prompt Policy Change in Vermont Prisons

Posted By on Mon, Jan 7, 2019 at 3:03 PM

  • Dreamstime
Two inmates overdosed over the weekend in the Northwest State Correctional Facility in Swanton, prompting corrections officials to place the prison on lockdown while Vermont State Police canines searched for drugs.

One inmate was discovered without a pulse, but both survived. Corrections Commissioner Mike Touchette said the drug they ingested was likely K2 or Spice — synthetic cannabinoids.

Corrections officials said both inmates were given the overdose-reversal drug Narcan. The department acknowledged that Narcan doesn’t have an effect in reversing a non-opiate overdose, but it’s policy to administer the drug whenever an inmate is found unresponsive with no apparent injuries.

Two other Vermont inmates have overdosed during the past six months or so. Staff quickly used Narcan to reverse those overdoses.

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Friday, January 4, 2019

Chittenden County Sees Spate of Overdoses to Start Year

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2019 at 3:51 PM

Vermont Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine - DEREK BROUWER
  • Derek Brouwer
  • Vermont Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine
Seven people in Chittenden County were treated for drug overdoses during a seven-hour span overnight, the Vermont Department of Health said Friday.

Officials say it's unusual for the University of Vermont Medical Center to see more than one or two such cases on a busy night.

The spate of overdoses, likely opioid related, prompted an afternoon press conference attended by Health Commissioner Mark Levine and UVM Medical Center president Eileen Whalen.

"It's only January 4, and we've already seen multiple overdoses in a short period of time," Levine said.

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Vermont Panel to Propose 26 Percent Tax on Retail Weed

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2018 at 12:54 PM

Cash crop? - DREAMSTIME
  • Dreamstime
  • Cash crop?
Gov. Phil Scott’s task force studying pot policy released draft recommendations this week for how the state should structure a taxed-and-regulated retail cannabis market.

The 88-page report, created by the taxation and regulation subcommittee of the Governor's Marijuana Advisory Commission, recommends a 20 percent excise tax on all retail cannabis sales, in addition to the state’s 6 percent sales tax. Towns could also choose to levy a 1 percent local option tax. The panel recommends that the tax revenue be distributed to cities and towns statewide; it would also pay for the administrative costs of regulating the new market.

Consumers in Massachusetts, which has legalized retail sales, pay 17 to 20 percent in taxes.

Deputy Tax Commissioner Craig Bolio noted that the recommendations are only in draft form and may change before the governor’s commission issues its final recommendations in December.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

New Haven Man Cautions Cannabis Growers After Thieves Steal His Plants

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2018 at 4:26 PM

Nestled beside the vegetables and a seaberry bush, Mark Krawczyk was raising two cannabis plants in the garden on his 12-acre New Haven property.

But when he woke up Tuesday morning, the stalks had been stripped. Plants that had been bursting with ready-to-harvest cannabis flower were barren.
Krawczyk was devastated.

“We put a lot of care and energy into the plants,” Krawczyk said. “It’s a bummer. We were excited it was legal.”

He and his wife had planted the cannabis behind chickenwire in their 2,000-square-foot garden shortly after Vermont legalized weed on July 1. The property is shielded from Route 7 by a hedgerow, and Krawczyk said the plants weren’t visible from the road, where cars go whizzing by at 55 miles per hour. He theorized that someone scoped out their property, likely from an adjacent hayfield.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Health Department Cautions Drug Users After Spate of Overdoses

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2018 at 3:30 PM

A kit with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan - COURTESY DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
  • Courtesy Department of Health
  • A kit with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan
The state Health Department is urging drug users to take precautions, including keeping the overdose-reversing drug Narcan on hand, after a spate of "several" fatal overdoses in Rutland County and other non-fatal incidents across the state.

The department declined to give specific numbers, citing pending autopsies, but said it believes most of the overdoses are tied to fentanyl, a synthetic opiate many times more powerful than heroin.

In 2017, two-thirds of opiate overdose deaths involved fentanyl, and the number of fatal overdoses involving fentanyl has nearly quadrupled since 2014.

The Health Department says it is concerned that the synthetic opioid is now being mixed with other drugs, including cocaine.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

Commission Discusses a Taxed-and-Regulated Cannabis Market for Vermont

Posted By on Mon, Sep 10, 2018 at 7:16 PM

  • Luke Eastman
Officials in states that have legalized recreational cannabis think Vermont misstepped by not implementing a taxed-and-regulated market, Health Commissioner Mark Levine told a panel tasked with studying the issue.

He spoke Monday during a Statehouse meeting of the Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission, which Gov. Phil Scott created by executive order in 2017 shortly after he vetoed a cannabis legalization measure. In January, Scott signed into law a bill that allows Vermonters to grow up to six plants at home and possess up to an ounce of marijuana. It did not legalize the sale or distribution of cannabis.

The commission has continued its work, which one of its cochairs, Tom Little, said was to determine what a taxed-and-regulated system in the state should look like if the legislature chooses to create one. Its final report, due in December, will not include a recommendation as to whether Vermont should — or should not — create such a market, according to Little.

The eight other states that have legalized cannabis allow, or will allow, licensed stores to sell the drug. And Levine, as chair of the commission’s education and prevention subcommittee, said he’d heard from officials in Colorado and Washington state who thought Vermont’s half-measure was a mistake.

“They’re kind of saying, the home-grow route did not allow the degree of surveillance, the degree of monitoring, the degree of regulating that a different environment would have provided,” Levine said. “So their hopes were that we would learn from them and actually graduate from that to another structure.”

He added: "Their recommendation was: Go to tax and regulate."

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Vermont Sues OxyContin Maker for Its Role in the Opiate Crisis

Posted By on Wed, Sep 5, 2018 at 5:34 PM

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan. - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan.
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma, alleging that the company's aggressive promotion of the drug helped spark the deadly and costly opiate-addiction crisis.

"Purdue Pharma lied, they misrepresented, they fabricated," Donovan said during a press conference outside Chittenden Superior Court, where the lawsuit was filed. "And they spread falsehoods, and they made billions off it — and they created a path of destruction that the State of Vermont is still reeling from."

Donovan said he decided to sue after settlement talks between Purdue, Vermont and other states broke down. The attorney general said he is still open to a settlement, possibly involving other states. But he repeatedly stressed that Vermont has a "compelling story to tell" should it continue to go it alone against the manufacturer of the powerful pain-relief drug.

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Monday, July 23, 2018

Vermont AG: It's Illegal for Businesses to 'Gift' Marijuana

Posted By on Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 11:36 AM

  • Luke Eastman
Updated at 12:35 p.m.

This gift won't legally keep giving.

Selling an item or offering a service that comes with some "free" cannabis is illegal under Vermont's new recreational marijuana law, Attorney General T.J. Donovan declared in an advisory Monday.

The interpretation of the law, which went into effect July 1 and is known as Act 86, comes after several businesses cropped up offering cannabis, edibles and vape cartridges in exchange for a delivery fee. Some entrepreneurs were also selling an overpriced item such as a sticker, T-shirt or bracelet and would throw in a "gift" of marijuana on the side. That kind of transaction is considered a marijuana sale, according to Donovan.

"Any transfer of marijuana for money, barter, or other legal consideration remains illegal under Vermont law," Donovan wrote in the advisory. He added: "Individuals may gift pursuant to the parameters set forth in the law."

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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Burlington City Council Waters Down Safe Injection Site Measure

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2018 at 9:31 AM

  • Sean Metcalf
Updated at 9:50 a.m.

The Burlington City Council decided to move forward with a resolution promoting opiate treatment, but inserted key language saying that safe injection sites won’t happen anytime soon.

The council voted 9-3 to endorse buprenorphine treatment and appoint two councilors to the CommunityStat opiate study committee but will not take concrete steps toward establishing a safe injection facility "until the city council affirmatively votes to do so" in a separate vote.

It took two hours of debate and nine proposed amendments Monday night before the council issued its "yes" vote to the altered measure.

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