When Ohio voters go to the polls on Nov. 6, they will have many important decisions to make. Perhaps you are among those reading about the issues and learning about the candidates so you can make informed choices. One of the most controversial questions the election seeks to answer involves the fate of those arrested for drug possession.
With the nickname "Issue One," the Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Amendment seeks to change the penalties for drug possession by amending the state's constitution. If you face drug charges, you may be interested in knowing what the ballot initiative proposes and how it affects your case and your future.
How will the change affect me?
Like most states, Ohio is fighting against an explosion of overdoses and deaths related to drug use. Instead of tightening the laws and raising the penalties, some lawmakers want to lower the degree of the offense for some possession charges. If you face charges of possession of less than five grams of heroin, 10 grams of crack or cocaine, or less than a kilo of marijuana, you are currently looking at felony charges. If the initiative passes and the constitution changes, these offenses would then be misdemeanors.
The proposed changes may affect you in the following ways:
- Instead of prison, you may receive probation for a first offense and serve only a few months in jail for subsequent convictions.
- You may still face felony charges if police claim you were sharing or selling the drugs you had in your possession.
- Police are likely to add more serious charges, such as trafficking or child endangerment, if they arrest you for possession of even a small amount of the deadly opioid fentanyl.
- You may still be subject to federal charges and penalties, depending on the circumstances of your arrest.
- If you already have a felony possession conviction on your record, you can petition to have that charge reclassified as a misdemeanor, which may help you find meaningful work and other benefits.
Opponents of the amendment argue that those arrested for possession will be less likely to seek treatment because they won't face the drug court. Drug courts offer you the chance to agree to drug treatment instead of jail time. However, by lowering these possession charges from felonies to misdemeanors, you may not face the possibility of jail and so have less incentive to submit to treatment.
Whether the measure passes remains to be seen, but you may not have time to wait for an election. If you are facing drug charges now, your future is on the line. Seeking legal assistance as early as possible may be your best option.