Local law leaders united in opposition to Ohio Issue 1


By Tom Barr - tbarr@wnewsj.com



The entire ballot language of Ohio Issue 1 will be published in upcoming editions of the News Journal.

Ohio Issue 1 is on the Nov. 6 ballot “To Reduce Penalties for Crimes of Obtaining, Possessing, and Using Illegal Drugs”, states the ballot language.

According to the League of Women Voters, “Issue 1, also known as The Amendment to Reduce Penalties for Crimes of Obtaining, Possessing, and Using Illegal Drugs, would add a new section 12 to Article XV of the Ohio Constitution. The amendment is designed to reduce the number of people in state prisons for low-level, nonviolent drug possession; drug use offenses; or for non-criminal probation violations.

”In addition, it would provide sentence credits for participation in rehabilitative programs; and is intended to direct the savings achieved by such reductions in incarceration to substance abuse treatment programs, crime victim programs, probation programs, graduated responses programs, and rehabilitation programs.

“The amendment would: Reclassify drug offenses from felony to misdemeanor for both accused and convicted drug users; and, require the state to spend savings due to a reduction of the number of prison inmates on drug treatment and rehabilitation programs.”

According to the League of Women Voters:

Proponents of Issue 1 say that it will:

• Make the possession, obtainment and use of drugs no more than a misdemeanor.

• Create a sentence reduction credits program for inmates’ participation in rehabilitative, work, or educational programs

• Reduce the number of people in state prisons for low-level crimes

• Save tens of millions of dollars annually in prison spending and direct the savings to addiction treatment and victims of crime.

Opponents of Issue 1 say it:

• Would make it more difficult to prosecute drug traffickers.

• Belongs in the Ohio Revised Code. The constitution should contain fundamental principles and organization of government. Appropriation directives should not be added to the constitution.

• Takes away available resources from the court for rehabilitating people and doesn’t give judges the ability to use incarceration when it’s necessary.

• Does not provide adequate funding for treatment infrastructure nor treatment itself

Clinton County Common Pleas Court Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck told the News Journal, “Recently, for two years, I was privileged to serve on a 23-member committee charged by the Ohio General Assembly with making recommendations to revise the entire criminal legal code. A three-member subgroup consisting of myself, Gary Mohr, Director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, and then Clermont County Sheriff Tim Rodenberg, specifically reviewed all the drug laws in the state of Ohio.

“Both our subgroup and the entire committee then submitted proposals to the General Assembly to revise Ohio’s drug laws in a responsible manner that recognizes some of the goals of Issue 1. Those proposals are before the General Assembly for consideration. I am optimistic reform is on the way.

”Amending the Ohio Constitution is not the method to address this subject. As a proponent of treatment for addiction, and recognizing it as a health issue which has been handled in the criminal justice system for way too long, it is most certainly time for major reform. But Issue 1 is not the way to do it.”

Clinton County Municipal Court Judge Mike Daugherty, when contacted by the News Journal, shared a post he recently made on Facebook which clearly states his opinions on Issue 1.

“Vote ‘no’ on Issue 1. One out of every nine overdose deaths in America happens in Ohio. That’s an awful thing. Everyone agrees that we need to stop it. People have lots of ideas about how to do that.

“Your fall ballot will include Issue 1, which is called the ‘Ohio Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment’. It sounds hopeful. It is not,” said Daugherty.

“Issue 1 will make felony possession of serious, poisonous drugs into misdemeanors. In fact, it will make possession of deadly amounts of fentanyl and methamphetamine less serious than driving with a suspended license. Currently, you can go to prison for possessing just a few milligrams of fentanyl. Under Issue 1, people who have as much as 19 grams—enough to kill 10,000 people, can only get probation. They won’t even be allowed to spend the night in jail. That’s a bad law.

“Supporters say that this law will save money on prisons. It might. It will also make Ohio the home of the most lenient drug laws in America,” said Daugherty. “Ohio will be the best place to transport serious quantities of narcotics. The price will drop here, and these poisons will be more readily available for your children.

“This is not a marijuana legalization law. This Constitutional Amendment will decriminalize the worst, most deadly, and most addictive substances in human history,” said Daugherty.

The News Journal also reached out to Clinton County Sheriff Ralph Fizer Jr. and Col. Brian Prickett for their thoughts.

“Both the sheriff and I oppose Issue 1 as well,” said Prickett. “Releasing 10,000 offenders early from prison, into communities already struggling from limited resources for ‘treatment’, is not the answer and will create safety issues for the general public. It is important to allow the judges to maintain the judicial authority given to them by the community that voted them into office.

“Our major concern has to do with the possession of deadly drugs, including heroin and fentanyl,” Prickett continued. “Issue 1 would make possession of these drugs a misdemeanor and forbid jail sentencing for the first two offenses of less than 20 grams. To put that in perspective, 20 grams of fentanyl is potent enough to kill thousands of people; 20 grams is equal to about 1 ½ tablespoons, not a large quantity considering its ability to kill that many people.

“The ability to possess these dangerous drugs with no fear of substantial consequence will only make the opioid/drug epidemic worse and further threaten the public and first responders safety.”

Wilmington Police Chief Duane Weyand recently voiced his opposition to on Issue 1 to the Wilmington Rotary Club.

He discussed how it would make most drug possession crimes a misdemeanor, restrict courts’ local ability to exercise any discretion, and ultimately push all the cost of housing offenders back on the community.

He said this proposed amendment would make it possible to possess 19 grams of fentanyl — enough to kill 10,000 people — and have absolutely no chance of jail. Reducing the charges reduces the resources that police and the court system have to help the offenders.

Weyand expressed his opposition for the passing of this amendment, citing public safety and cost to the community.

He added that a majority of the millions of dollars of funding behind the issue has come from out-of-state special interest groups.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is among those monetarily supporting the issue.

Those also in favor of the issue’s passage include Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray.

Among those opposing Issue 1 include Ohio Governor John Kasich, Ohio Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine, and Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor.

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By Tom Barr

tbarr@wnewsj.com

The entire ballot language of Ohio Issue 1 will be published in upcoming editions of the News Journal.