Issue 1 went down in flames Tuesday as Ohio voters overwhelmingly decided they didn’t want to change their state constitution in a way that binds the hands of judges in drug possession cases.
With more than 90 percent of the precincts reporting, voters were crushing the ballot measure by a margin of 64 to 36 percent.
Issue 1, if it had passed, would have forced a constitutional amendment that required zero jail time for the possession of up to 19 grams of highly addictive drugs such as heroin and fentanyl. The amendment would have traded treatment for prison time, turning felonies into misdemeanors.
Only after the third offense could a person be sentenced to serve time behind bars.
The proposal was widely criticized by most of Ohio’s judges, law enforcement and prosecutorial community. Perhaps the biggest name to campaign against the measure was Maureen O’Connor, chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.
O’Connor, along with Attorney General Mike DeWine and others said Issue 1 would undermine Ohio’s drug courts by taking away one of the major incentives for addicts to seek treatment – that being the prospect of being sent to prison.
“On its surface, Issue 1 looks progressive,” O’Connor told The Lantern. “It purports to help addicts by reducing drug possession penalties, but it’s actually regressive and would impede the success of an addict when that person is involved with the criminal justice system.”
O’Connor said Issue 1 would take away the ability for judges to sentence felons to jail, and actually make it less likely for them to receive the treatment they need through drug court programs.
“Judges cannot put substance-abuse individuals into incarceration if they don’t have that stick to use,” she said. “There will be little to no participation because there’s no incentive to go to drug treatment.”
O’Connor was also one of the first public officials to point out that 19 grams of fentanyl packs enough power to kill 10,000 people.
A massive advertising campaign pushing Issue 1 was financed by out-of-state billionaires such as George Soros and Mark Zuckerberg.
Richard Cordray, the Democrat candidate for governor, was one of the few candidates running in Tuesday’s elections to come out in favor of Issue 1. And it may have hurt him. With 90 percent of the precincts reporting, Cordray was losing to Republican Mike DeWine by a margin of 52 to 45 percent.
Cordray’s opponent in the gubernatorial race, Mike DeWine, warned during the debates that if Ohio passed Issue 1 it would become a nationwide hub for the drug cartels.
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Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star.