By: Mac Williams
Over the last several years the opioid crisis has hit the state of Ohio hard, leading to rising jail and prison populations. On Tuesday, a controversial issue is on the ballot as voters head to the polls to decide key races and issues across the state and nation. Some say it will destroy the state, others say it will rid the state of its drug problem.
According to Jessie Balmert of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Issue 1 would reduce the jail time for low level drug offenders. Individuals caught using or possessing drugs would face a misdemeanor rather than a fourth or fifth-degree felony. The misdemeanor would be punishable by up to six months in county jail rather than prison time for those convicted of felonies. Additionally, those convicted of a first offense or a second offense within 24 months would be given probation, with third offenses facing jail time.
Supporters of Issue 1 argue it would reduce overcrowding in jails and prisons by allowing those first and second offenses to receive focused treatment, rather than lengthy prison sentences.
Opponents of Issue 1 argue the bill would make it more difficult to prosecute drug traffickers and does not give judges the ability to use incarceration when necessary.
According to Mark Gokavi of the Springfield News-Sun, Issue 1 would change possession laws to consider 20 grams as the threshold for charging someone with trafficking. Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor is an opponent of the bill and argues that reducing the possession threshold would incentivize drug dealers.
“94 percent of the dollars that has gone into promoting Issue 1 and its passage, from circulation of the petitions to the television ads that you’re seeing, is funded by people who do not even live in Ohio and will not have to live with the consequences of Issue 1, which are very serious,” said O’Connor.
Like any issue on the ballot Tuesday Issue 1 is supported and opposed along a bitter partisan divide. Several high profile republicans including gubernatorial candidate Mike Dewine are staunch opponents of issue 1. Conversely, Democrats like Senator Sherrod Brown and gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray strongly support issue 1.
According to Laura Bischoff of the Dayton Daily News, support for Issue 1 has slipped. Updated polling data shows 43 percent of voters support it, 39.8 percent oppose it, and 17.2 percent are undecided.
With so many issues on the ballot this Tuesday, races and issues can slip under the radar. Issue 1 is not one of them. All eyes will be on the controversial issue to see what the voters of Ohio decided.