ACLU back on board with bill reducing drug crime penalties

COLUMBUS (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union said it’s back on board with a bill designed to reduce low-level drug possessions to misdemeanors and increase penalties for drug dealers. The legislation is part of a long-running attempt by lawmakers to reduce Ohio’s prison population.

The ACLU, a past supporter of the legislation, dropped its backing after an amendment was added last week that would boost penalties for selling drugs within the vicinity of an addictions service provider.

The ACLU said that amendment went against the premise of the bill — to reduce the number of Ohioans in prison. Gongwer News Service reports the ACLU reiterated its support of the bill after the drug-dealing amendment was removed Tuesday. That amendment could be approved later as stand-alone legislation.

The bipartisan bill would also allow people convicted of low-level drug possession charges to have their records sealed on completion of drug court requirements.

The legislation also creates harsher penalties for trafficking, deeming it aggravated trafficking, major trafficking or trafficking, depending on the drug amounts involved.