This November, voters get to decide if they think crimes of drug possession and use should be nothing more than a misdemeanor in Ohio.
Issue 1 was designed to reduce the State’s prison population by eliminating low-level drug offenses from those being incarcerated.
This would have a retroactive effect as well, with inmates being able to petition for re-sentencing if they are serving time on certain drug offenses.
The money saved by the State as a result of this population reduction would then have to be used in local communities for treatment and prevention.
Some, like Governor John Kasich, see the spirit of the measure as a positive thing.
“There are parts of this thing that are really good,” said Kasich.
But only parts, according to Kasich; he plans to vote against the measure at the polls.
“I’m not voting for Issue 1,” said Kasich. “There’s too many unintended consequences.”
Kasich says Issue 1 goes too far and a lot of that has to do with fentanyl.
Issue 1 would make simply possessing the deadly substance a misdemeanor in many cases.
That’s because the legislature failed to pass a bill that went into effect before the first of this year.
The bill eventually did pass, but too late as Issue 1 specifically sets January 1st, 2018 as the date to test against.
The new law adjusts the required amount of fentanyl present to be charged with a different crime (i.e. trafficking, which is not covered by the ballot issue) to be lower than it had been before.
Kasich seems to blame the state legislature for dragging its feet on bills like this.
“It may take some sort of initiative like [Issue 1] to accomplish these things that seems to be politically difficult for members of the legislature,” said Kasich.
Supporters of Issue 1 want to see low-level drug offenders, especially addicts, getting treatment locally and not locked up in prison where they can potentially find themselves spiraling down the rabbit hole of a life of crime.
“We need to get these people into treatment, not put them behind bars,” said Dennis Willard, the spokesperson for the “Yes” on Issue 1 campaign.
That much, Kasich seems to agree with.
“There’s differences in all of the conditions that people find themselves in who have these addictions. But i can tell you lock’in’em all up in prison isn’t gonna solve the problem,” said Kasich.
While disappointed Kasich has decided to oppose Issue 1, Willard says they have tremendous respect for the governor.
“We also respect the fact that he understands the legislature’s not going to do anything,” said Willard.
Even though he is planning on voting against Issue 1, Kasich is urging supporters of the bill not to give up if it fails this November.
“Those people who are concerned about this, don’t go away. Just work with us and let’s try to get this done,” said Kasich.
Kasich says issue one could be more amenable to him if it was not a constitutional amendment.
However, supporters of the ballot measure say with the legislature unable or unwilling to address the issue they had no choice but to go down this road.