All across the nation, lawmakers are making an impact on criminal justice reform, particularly when it comes to minor drug crimes. Many people in possession of drugs for their own personal addictions have been charged with felonies in the state of Ohio. However, lawmakers recently introduced Senate Bill 3 in an effort to make many minor drug possession charges misdemeanors rather than felonies. Lawmakers hope the Senate passes the bill by June of this year.
Under the new bill, anyone caught with small amounts of drugs in their possession may be able to avoid a criminal conviction by undergoing treatment for their addiction. Judges will be allowed to put a drug possession case on hold while the defendant undergoes court-ordered treatment for his or her addiction. If the defendant successfully completes the treatment, the judge may dismiss the case or order further treatment if necessary to encourage the defendant's recovery.
However, people who possess drugs with the intent to sell or distribute them are not off the hook. The bill establishes three tiers of drug trafficking offenses and drug dealers can still face prison time if they are convicted on drug distribution charges. The bill also does not impact laws that address drug crimes involving date rape drugs or fentanyl-related substances.
The new bill could significantly impact drug crimes in the state, as up to 2,000 people are put in prison each year for minor drug possession. The ACLU is fighting for the law to be applied retroactively to the 2,000 people currently in prison for low-level drug possession felonies, but this may be difficult to achieve.