OPINION: Organizations, people explain why they do not support State Issue 1

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.

1. Stephen K. Haller, Greene County Prosecuting Attorney

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.

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. READ MORE

2. Michael T. Gmoser, Butler County Prosecutor

Issue One will all but decriminalize possession of the most deadly drugs in our history and make prosecution of those that deal in these deadly drugs nearly impossible. As an example, possession of 19 grams of fentanyl, enough to kill 10,000 people, will become a non-jailable misdemeanor with no threat of jail for first and second offenses in a two-year period.

This is the most obvious failure of Issue 1 and there are many more tucked away in the proposed amendment. No adjoining state to Ohio has such an amendment and will make Ohio a sanctuary state for criminals who would face stiff penalties in Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky who have the good sense to prosecute drug dealers with felony prosecutions. READ MORE

3. Judge Robert W. Rettich III, Miamisburg Municipal Court

Don’t be fooled by its title — please vote no on Issue 1. I believe opiate addiction is the greatest public health crisis in America. Overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 — 115 people die from opiate overdose every single day. We are at war with opiate addiction, and Ohio is a key battleground. To be candid, I am in the trenches every day. I personally see the faces of those lost to addiction. Issue 1 would eliminate our most effective weapons in fighting this war. It will literally cost lives.

Issue 1 would stop Ohio from rapidly responding to any changes in the war on opiates. It 1 locks us into a Constitutional Amendment, which is almost impossible to change.Issue 1 may sound like a good plan, but it won’t work, and we can’t change it if it’s passed. We need to be able to adapt quickly in the changing opiate war.

Issue 1 would take away Ohio Judges' ability to force drug treatment. Ohio had just under 5,000 overdose deaths in 2017. If Issue 1 passes, I would have no choice but to release people I knew would use drugs and possibly die. READ MORE

4.Judge Jeffrey M. Welbaum, Second District Court of Appeals of Ohio

I understand that the hype in favor of increasing treatment and reducing incarceration strikes many emotional chords and is appealing. However, the actual text of Issue 1 makes it clearly the most dangerous proposition I have seen during my nearly 41 years of combined experience as a public defender, prosecutor, felony trial judge, assistant attorney general, and appellate judge. READ MORE