Home Law OPINION: Why you should vote “Yes” on Issue 1

OPINION: Why you should vote “Yes” on Issue 1

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Opinion Writer Maddie Kramer argues a “Yes” vote on Ohio’s Issue 1 is a potential solution to Ohio’s deadly opiod crisis.

Ohio’s opioid problem may see a potential solution with a new constitutional amendment, Issue 1, on the midterm election ballot. Ohio is one of the top five states for high death rates relating to opiods. This constitutional amendment would lower penalties for several drugs and offers a new focus on rehabilitation.

Issue 1 focuses on lowering penalties for illicit drugs such as fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and LSD. Currently, obtaining, using, and possessing these drugs carries a felony charge. Issue 1 focuses on changing these crimes to a misdemeanor.

The amendment is a little more complex. People who are already incarcerated can reduce their sentence by 25 percent, as long as they have not also been convicted of murder, rape, or child molestation. The sentence reduction also hinges on the person completing rehabilitative, educational, or work programming. The funds saved from less people going to prison will go to the new programs.

There are also some restrictions on the sentence reduction. If a person is caught obtaining, using, or possessing the illegal drugs three times in 24 months, the individual will have to serve a sentence. Non-criminal minor probation violations will not result in jail time but instead drug treatment or community service.

The main question on people’s minds now is, “what about the drug dealers?” Issue 1 specifies obtaining, using, and possessing. However, this amendment would not affect those charged with drug trafficking. Those felony charges would remain the same. For many people, where this amendment stands on drug trafficking is a main concern. The concept of possession not including trafficking is a deciding factor for many voters.

A “yes” vote for Issue 1 also means accessible rehabilitation for people who otherwise may have been stuck in a drug cycle. Prescription opioids are addictive and can lead to an often deadly drug addiction. In 2016, 3,613 Ohioans died of an opioid related overdose. Many of these deaths could have been prevented if these individuals had received rehabilitation.

It is also important to understand how much money is spent in the prison system currently and how much money will be saved by instituting this amendment. It is a little challenging to fully understand and project how many people will not face jail time in the future because of the amendment.

According to Policy Matters Ohio, Ohio currently spends almost $1.3 billion on the prison system. An estimate of around 10,000 people not entering the prison system would save Ohio roughly $136 million. This money would be able to go into rehabilitation and educational programs for communities where drug abuse and especially opioid related deaths are common.

Opponents of Issue 1 have said that it will bring drugs to Ohio’s streets. In reality, those facing addiction will be able to seek the help they need without prison time. Issue 1 will not bring drugs to Ohio, as traffickers will face the same penalties as before. Issue 1 will address a public safety crisis that many Ohioans are facing. Since 2010, the rate of opioid related deaths has tripled.

A “Yes” vote on Issue 1 shows people who struggle with opioid addiction that Ohio cares to help them recover. It shows that Ohio is willing to begin prison reform and start to see the end of mass incarceration. The passage of Issue 1 would align Ohio with states such as California, Connecticut, Alaska, Oklahoma, and Utah, where similar types of legislation has passed.

Ultimately, Issue 1 would be good for the state. It would prevent many opioid related deaths and focus on rehabilitation. Issue 1 would save Ohio millions of dollars that we can invest back in communities. Issue 1 is an important step to ending Ohio’s opioid crisis.

Vote “Yes” on Issue 1. Early voting has already begun. Election day is Nov. 6. Get out and vote.

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