AUGUSTA – After hearing more than three hours of testimony in support of LD 967 last month, five members of the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee today endorsed the bill that would remove criminal penalties for minor drug possession, treating it as a civil violation and offering people a pathway to recovery.
At the public hearing on April 30, the majority of written and live testimony offered at Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee expressed overwhelming support for LD 967 from people in recovery, harm reduction service providers, medical professionals and civil rights advocates.
“After hearing the urgency we did from people on the frontlines of the substance use and overdose death crisis, supporting LD 967 was the only reasonable path forward,” said Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee House Chair Rep. Charlotte Warren (Hallowell). “Advocates in recovery and their allies, advocates providing lifesaving harm reduction services, and members of the medical community have changed how we understand and respond to substance use disorder.”
The bill will next go to the House floor for a vote.
“I applaud the advocates who have shown such courage in speaking about their experiences and helping the public understand that drug addiction requires treatment and support, not punishment,” said bill sponsor Rep. Anne Perry (Calais). “I thank my colleagues for showing tremendous leadership by supporting this vital, life-saving legislation.”
The following statements can be attributed as noted:
Rep. Grayson Lookner (Portland)
“The legacy of criminalizing people who use drugs has been mass incarceration, thousands of overdose deaths and lives ruined by the collateral consequences of criminal records. LD 967 presents the opportunity for Maine to choose a new, more humane path. I’m proud to vote that LD 967 ought to pass.”
Rep. Bill Pluecker (Warren)
“We all want our constituents who have substance use disorder to have access to support they need to find long term recovery if and when they are ready. Jail time and criminal records can be devastating barriers that keep people from moving forward. LD 967 gives our state a new path to connect people with life-affirming care and avoid the pitfalls that criminalization creates.”
Rep. Victoria Morales (South Portland)
“I’ve been an advocate for young people, and it’s clear to me that we will have healthier kids and families if we stop punishing people for substance use disorder. We can’t keep separating families. We can’t keep burdening parents and young people with criminal records. We can’t keep creating barriers to the very things that will help individuals enter sustained recovery and thrive. This is why LD 967 ought to pass.”
Rep. Lois Reckitt (South Portland)
“There are many underlying causes of substance use disorder, and one of them is trauma. Arrest and incarceration for simple drug possession add trauma. They do not help people heal. But giving them supportive avenues to care and treatment does. I’ve been an advocate for survivors of domestic violence and women for years. LD 967 would help survivors and women who have substance use disorder heal, and that is why I’m voting ought to pass.”