DeWine, Recovering Drug Addict Criticize Rehabilitation Ballot Issue

Sep 11, 2018

A woman recovering from drug addiction is joining the Republican candidate for Ohio governor in fighting against a November ballot issue to reduce prison time for non-violent drug offenders.

Shea Fraser of Marysville says she spent years struggling with addiction, starting with prescription pills and evolving to heroin. She says, had Issue 1 been enacted before her battle with addiction, she would have faced a fate worse than jail time. 

Fraser and gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine say Issue 1 would take incentive away from drug-addicted people who are given the choice between prison or drug court, which diverts them to treatment.

“I can tell you right now that without drug court I would not be standing here today, at all, I would not have gone to treatment on my own,” Fraser says.

The constitutional amendment would reduce felony offenses for buying and using certain drugs, including fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and LSD, to misdemeanor offenses. Jail time couldn't be imposed until the third offense.

Some criminal justice reform groups and former addicts support Issue 1, saying prison becomes a barrier between addicts and treatment under Ohio’s current laws.

Fraser spoke at an event hosted by DeWine, who currently serves as Ohio Attorney General. He says the measure would worsen the current drug epidemic in Ohio and would "gut the progress we've made."

DeWine’s Democratic rival, Richard Cordray, is a supporter of Issue 1. Cordray says as governor, he would “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."

Issue 1 has also seen strong opposition from Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor. In an editorial, O’Connor criticized the measure that she says would make it a misdemeanor to possess of up to 19 grams of the deadly painkiller fentanyl.

“This is unconscionable. Drug dealers would be incentivized to distribute fentanyl in amounts less than 20 grams so those caught possessing it would avoid incarceration,” the justice said.