What is State Issue 1 on the Ohio ballot this fall?


Ohio voters this fall will decide State Issue 1, a proposed constitutional amendment that is being bankrolled by billionaires including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, Nicholas and Susan Pritzker of San Francisco and George Soros’ Open Society Policy Center.

The Yes on Issue 1 campaign received $4.5 million of the $4.8 million from out of state sources, according to campaign finance reports filed in July.

Issue 1 would:

— Convert felony 4 and felony 5 drug possession and drug use crimes to misdemeanors with no jail time for first and second offenses committed within a 24-month period;

— Keep drug trafficking crimes as felonies;

— Prohibit judges from sending people to prison if they violate probation with something other than a new crime, such as missing an appointment;

— Cut prison time for offenders who complete rehabilitation programs, except those convicted of murder, rape or child molestation;

— Put money saved by fewer people going to prison into drug treatment and crime victim programs;

— Allow people convicted of certain drug crimes to petition the court for re-sentencing or release or to have the charge changed.

A summary and full text of the issue is available here.

Ohio politicos are lining up for and against State Issue 1: Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine opposes it while Democratic nominee Rich Cordray supports it.

“Eight years of Mike DeWine’s failure have given us a tripling of opioid-related deaths and rising drug crime. The time for him to step up and solve this problem has long passed. Now, he wants to play politics with the opioid epidemic as it is destroying families and communities across Ohio,” Cordray said in a written statement. “As governor, I will work with law enforcement to make sure drug dealers are convicted and serve long prison sentences while people who need substance abuse treatment can get it in our communities.”

At a press conference Monday, DeWine said “Richard Cordray could not be more wrong about anything.”

DeWine sounded the alarm against Issue 1, saying it would undermine drug courts, give Mexican cartels a “road map straight into our neighborhoods,” and allow early release of up to 10,000 felons now in prison. “It would gut the progress we have made and destroy lives, destroy families.”

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican who favors some criminal justice reforms, wrote in a recent opinion piece that Issue 1 is unconscionable and catastrophic and would hamper drug courts in Ohio.

“If Issue 1 passes, Ohio might have some of the most lenient drug crime laws in the nation,” she warned.

Related: Chief Justice to Ohio judges: Courts aren’t ATMs to collect fees

Issue 1 would dictate than any drug possession conviction that is now a felony 4 or felony 5 would be knocked down to a misdemeanor. It would make possession of less than 20 grams of powdered fentanyl or a range of other illegal drugs a misdemeanor with no jail time.

“Issue 1 may be well-intentioned in design, but its passage would gravely endanger Ohioans. It would be devastating in effect,” O’Connor wrote.

The Ohio Judicial Conference and Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association opposes Issue 1.

Supporting the issue is: Policy Matters Ohio, Ohio Justice and Policy Center, Ohio Baptist State Convention and several labor unions.

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