Casting a ‘no’ vote for Ohio Issue 1

To the editor:

Having had friends die in the opioid epidemic, ballot Issue 1 caught my attention. At first it sounded good. As I looked into the details I found I strongly disagree with this amendment to the Ohio Constitution. The fact that this is an amendment to the Ohio Constitution was enough to give me second thoughts about voting yes for Issue 1.

This is issue was brought to the ballot by the Ohio Safe and Healthy Communities Campaign, a group that receives funding from people who do not live in Ohio. Issue 1 is opposed by people within the Ohio: judiciary, prosecutors and law enforcement communities. This issue is wrong for Ohio because it lowers the penalties for possession, use and trafficking of dangerous drugs as well as tying the hands of judges.

Issue 1 is no ordinary law the legislature can go back and change if it does not work out. It is an amendment to the Ohio Constitution. In the event amendment does not live up the promises of its supporters, a group of citizens would have to get another amendment on the ballot.

Currently to get an issue on the statewide ballot, a statewide total of 305,591 signatures are required. (This requirement will fluctuate following each gubernatorial election.) Signatures must be obtained from at least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties. From each of the 44 counties, signatures must equal at least 5 percent of votes cast for governor in that county in previous election. After the signature requirement is met the group would have to campaign for the new amendment. They will have to raise money to pay for literature, ads, billboards, etc. No easy task. Should Issue 1 pass it will not be easily changed when it becomes an amendment to the Ohio Constitution.

“Ohio Safe and Healthy Communities Campaign” (OSHCC) is the group campaigning for Issue 1. When I look at a controversial ballot issue I always like to look at who is behind the campaign. OSHCC is funded and supported by people from outside of Ohio like George Soros, a multi-billionaire investor and political activist as well as Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook.

The opponents of Issue 1 are from Ohio and have been on the front lines of the opioid epidemic and fight against drugs in the State. These opponents of Issue 1 include the Prosecuting Attorney’s Association, Ohio Bar Association, Common Pleas Judges Association, Buckeye State Sheriffs Association and Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police. These groups are made up of Ohioans, who have fought the war on drugs and know more about what is good for Ohio than Soros and Zuckerberg.

Readers might be thinking “that’s interesting information, but why should I vote no?” This new amendment would not even be a slap on the wrist, that’s why you should vote “no” on Issue 1. The language of the amendment reads: “Mandate that criminal offenses of obtaining, possessing, or using any drug such as fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, and other controlled substances cannot be classified as a felony, but only a misdemeanor.” (source a non-partisan website). After being convicted of the misdemeanor the convict has to be arrested three times in twenty-four months for drug offenses before jail time can be considered.

The amendment reads flat out: “Prohibit jail time as a sentence for obtaining, possessing, or using such drugs until an individual’s third offense within 24 months.” (source Drug dealers have already made headlines for laughing at their sentences. This amendment should have drug dealers rolling the floor laughing. The drug trade is a business with a supply chain from manufacturers to distributors down to local dealers and couriers who deliver drugs.

The criminals know the ins and outs of the law as well as how to work the system. Issue 1 will give criminals more ways to work the system to their advantage. One story that comes to mind is from a reformed dealer who said he used to only carry three bags of dope because four was a felony and three was only a misdemeanor. From the kingpins to the street courier who delivers dope, the drug business is just that: a business. We should not pass an amendment that helps dealers do business and avoid punishment.

Issue 1 is an amendment to the Ohio Constitution not just a law that can be easily changed if it does not work as advertised. The answer to the opioid crisis and drug epidemic is not an easy one. Yes there have been success stories of faith-based treatment and rehabilitation. There are already plans for drug courts that offer treatment for the addicted. Addiction is an illness. The offer of treatment needs to be backed up by jail time for people who do not comply with the treatment option. Harsher punishments along with other measures need to be taken against the dealers and traffickers. They are selling death in the form of heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. This law only gives the drug business an easier way to do business by mandating less punishment. Ohioans need to take their state back by getting involved in their communities, coming to council meetings, talking with the local police, starting a Neighborhood Watch, and voting “no” on Issue 1.

John R. Morrow,