OPINION: Attorney says Issue 1 the wrong way to fix our problems

Credit: Jay LaPrete

Credit: Jay LaPrete

EDITOR'S NOTE: THIS IS AN OPINION PIECE. On Nov. 6, Ohio voters will get the chance to weigh in on Issue 1, a proposed constitutional amendment that, if passed, would make major changes to the state's drug laws and how they're enforced.

The issue has become hotly debated – many judges, prosecutors and law enforcement leaders are against it, arguing that it will make it harder to fight drug crime; the issue is supported by numerous civil-liberties and minority groups that argue it's a long-overdue fix to antiquated laws.

Here is a sampling of some of the pro and con arguments swirling around the issue.

The Dayton Daily News is committed to presenting all sides of important issues. To see opinion commentary supporting Issue 1, click here. To see opinion commentary against Issue 1, click here

Stephen K. Haller, Greene County Prosecuting Attorney, writes about his opinion on Issue 1. 

If passed, Issue 1 will significantly change drug laws and sentencing options in Ohio. It would mandate that fourth- and fifth-degree felony offenses of obtaining, possessing or using a significant amount of drugs such as heroin, fentanyl, carfentanil, methamphetamine, cocaine and LSD be classified as misdemeanors with no jail time for first and second offenses committed within a 24-month period. It would prohibit our elected judges from sending offenders to prison if they violate probationary rules and would cut prison time for criminals who participate in programs.

»TRENDING: What is State Issue 1 on the Ohio ballot this fall?

While well intended, there are so many problems with Issue 1 that it is difficult to list them all.

First, it changes Ohio drug laws so that possession of large amounts of poisonous and deadly drugs are equivalent to automobile traffic offenses, with no threat of jail.

Second, it removes a judge’s discretion to order prison time for offenders who violate the rules of probation. If a judge orders an individual into drug treatment, the judge cannot enforce it. If an individual chooses to never go to treatment and to continue to use there will be no consequence.

Third, the amendment shortens prison sentences up to 25 percent except for murder, rape, and child molestation. Crimes eligible for early release include manslaughter, armed robbery, arson, burglary, kidnapping, felonious assault, vehicular homicide and endangering children.

Fourth, this proposed constitutional amendment is primarily funded by a few rich people in California and Washington, D.C. including Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros. Millions of dollars from out of state are being spent to change the Ohio Constitution by people who think they know better how to run Ohio than Ohioans.

» WHAT THE CANDIDATES SAY: Governor candidates DeWine, Cordray debate Issue 1

Fifth, if passed, Issue 1 will be a huge financial burden on our municipal courts. The courts in Fairborn and Xenia will be inundated with new misdemeanor drug prosecutions and no additional resources to handle the case load.

Sixth, the proponents of Issue 1 touted its potential to save the state money. However, a fiscal analysis by the Office of Budget and Management reports that Issue 1 could result in additional costs into the “tens of millions.”

As a community, we should always strive to do more to help those in need, but Issue 1 is not the way. It undermines the courts. It removes incentives for addicts to complete treatment. It puts our community at unnecessary risk. As your prosecutor, I’m telling you that Issue 1 is scary and absolutely wrong.