As Scioto County Judges, we have the responsibility of sanctioning convicted drug offenders and try to direct them to treatment while holding them accountable for their actions. Although the concept of Issue 1 sounds good, we strongly disagree with the proposed language and urge voters to vote NO on Issue 1.
Scioto County has seen a significant rise in overdose deaths and the Scioto County Courts are on the front line of this crisis. Issue 1 would reclassify all 4th and 5th degree felony drug abuse offenses as misdemeanors. These drugs include heroin, opioids, methamphetamine, cocaine and fentanyl. A. mere trace of fentanyl, enough to cover Lincoln’s beard on a penny, is fatal. Under Issue 1, possession of 19 grams of fentanyl reduces the crime from a felony to a misdemeanor, despite the fact that 19 grams of fentanyl can kill 10,000 people.
If Issue 1 passes, a person would need to be convicted of possession of fentanyl three times within a twenty-four month period before a judge can even consider a jail sentence with such a deadly drug. Judges should not be restricted from considering all appropriate sanctions for the possession of these deadly drugs.
Issue 1 undermines the Court’s ability to encourage addicts to undergo treatment instead of suffering incarceration. Statistics show that Ohio’s Drug Courts and Interevention statutes have effectively helped people achieve sustainable long-term recovery from drug addiction. Judges understand the collateral consequences of incarceration and how it disrupts recovery efforts, employment and families. Issue 1 will restrict a judge’s ability to enforce its treatment orders and will result in fewer people going into or completing treatment.
Issue 1 is an attempt to amend the Ohio Constitution. It is not an Ohio statute passed by the Ohio legislature. If Issue 1 is successful, changes necessary to remedy its poorly drafted language cannot be made without another statewide ballot initiative. the legislature would be unable to intervene and correct the unintended consequences of this Amendment.
We believe that Issue 1 is bad for Scioto County and is detrimental to the health and safety of our community. We urge you to vote NO on Issue 1.
Judge Howard H. Harcha, III, Common Pleas Court, General Division; Judge Mark E. Kuhn, Common Pleas Court, General Division; Judge Jerry Buckler, Common Pleas Court, Domestic Relations Division; Judge R. Alan Lemons, Common Pleas Court, Probate/Juvenile Division; Judge Russell D. Kegley, Portsmouth Municipal Court; Judge Steven L. Mowery, Portsmouth Municipal Court