On your ballot this November is a proposed change to our constitution and something that you’ve likely heard little about but, if passed, will have dire consequences for communities across the state: Issue 1.
Issue 1 would amend Ohio’s constitution, put public safety at risk, place victims of crime at risk, undermine drug treatment efforts, and leave Ohio more vulnerable than it already is to the opiate crisis plaguing our communities and state.
Issue 1 makes possession of deadly drugs, including heroin and fentanyl, nothing more than a misdemeanor and forbids jail sentencing for the first two offenses. A person possessing enough fentanyl to kill an entire town would receive the same slap on the wrist as someone guilty of disorderly conduct. For people already in prison, Issue 1 permits the early release of thousands of violent and non-violent offenders, including human traffickers and child abusers. This robs victims of justice and puts potentially-dangerous offenders back on our streets.
By letting as many as 10,000 offenders out of prison early, Issue 1 proponents claim Ohio will save millions of dollars that can instead go to treatment. While funding drug treatment programs is a laudable goal, it should not be done by freeing violent felons from prison and at the expense of public safety.
Having our drug laws set in the constitution, would make them nearly impossible to change. Ohio will be unable to quickly respond to the ever-changing landscape of drug crimes in our community and across the state.
Despite whatever promises Issue 1’s proponents make, I can say with certainty that sheriffs like myself, prosecutors, and our judges will be left utterly helpless to do what you have elected us to do – keep our community safe. This November, I urge you to join sheriffs, prosecutors, judges, treatment providers, and former addicts in saying NO to Issue 1 and the dangers that it presents.
Matt Melvin is the Champaign County Sheriff.