Debate over Ohio's Issue One heating up ahead of election

Published: Oct. 5, 2018 at 5:53 PM EDT
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With just about a month away from Election Day, supporters and those against Ohio's Issue One are trying to get the attention of voters.

The measure will be on the ballot next month.

If passed, it would reduce drug possession charges to misdemeanors and eliminate prison time for those offenses.

Backers of the amendment say the money saved from fewer inmates would go to rehab programs.

But law enforcement officials say voting yes will lead to more crime in communities.

Law enforcement officials in Meigs, Gallia, Jackson, Vinton and Washington counties joined prosecutors plus at least one county commissioner and judge in Meigs County Friday to urge Ohioans to vote no.

"Ohio will become a hot spot for drug traffickers from other neighboring states to come into Ohio to engage in the trafficking of their drugs," Meigs County Prosecutor James Stanley said.

Stanley says that, while the charges for selling drugs won't change, the consequences for being caught with drugs would be minimal.

"The thing that is most concerning is that up to 20 grams of fentanyl, enough to kill a complete community, will now be a misdemeanor," Gallia County Prosecutor Jason Holdren said.

Law enforcement officials say if the charges are misdemeanors, there's no way for courts to make addicts go to rehab.

But supporters like Ohio University health policy professor Daniel Skinner say the money saved by keeping addicts out of prison will be used to get them the help they need through treatment.

"Issue One is an opportunity to say we know prison is not the answer here and we also know that we need to build an infrastructure for treating addiction as the disease that it is," Skinner said.

Skinner says Issue One would look at the drug crisis as a public health issue rather than a law enforcement issue.

He says what's currently being done isn't working and that a constitutional amendment, like Issue One, is needed.

"We really need to force ourselves to think in new ways. Unless we have something like a constitutional amendment, we're going to fault to our old ways of thinking," Skinner said.

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