I am writing in response to the editorial in Tuesday’s News Journal, entitled “One Ohioan Dies Every 3 hours from Drug Abuse.” It made reference to Attorney General Mike DeWine’s position on the ongoing heroin epidemic: communities must come together to solve this problem.
While I agree that elements of the community must come together to combat this problem, there is one group in our community that has the means to put a serious dent in this problem — the Ohio legislature, which writes Ohio’s criminal laws. Ohio criminal law ranks felony crime from most serious to least serious, with a felony of the 1st-degree felony most heinous and a 5th-degree felony least harmful to society.
Yet, under current Ohio law, a drug dealer can sell between 10 and 50 doses of heroin and still only be charged with a 4th-degree felony, selling 9 doses or less is a mere 5th-degree felony. Someone charged with a 5th-degree felony is highly unlikely to see the inside of a state prison cell.
Our legislature has the ability to revise these statutes to make them more reflective of the harm heroin is causing in our communities. A drug pusher who knows that, if he is caught, he is likely to face a low-level felony charge sees little downside to his criminal enterprise. That same pusher might think twice if he knew he was guaranteed state prison time for the sale of heroin.
Only the legislature can fix this problem. Unfortunately, they seem fixated on treatment for addicts while frequently reminding us that our prisons are overcrowded and that they have no interest in building new ones.
I am all for treatment for drug addicts in lieu of sending them to prison, and proudly serve on the steering committee of Judge Rudduck’s drug court, the “U-Turn Recovery Docket.” However, I believe a successful approach to the heroin problem should involve both treatment for addicts and stopping the supply.
The supply won’t stop until heroin pushers face stiff prison sentences for selling their poison in our towns and cities. At the risk of sounding like a Neanderthal, it seems our legislature would serve us well by giving equal attention to two ideas — treatment for addicts and bricks and mortar for more prisons. After all, isn’t the Ohio legislature part of “our community” that Mr. DeWine refers to?