Ohio Senate Working Out Details Of Drug Sentencing Reform Bil

Dec 16, 2019

Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) says the plan to change drug sentencing laws is one of the most important pieces of legislation they'll have during this two-year session.

Obhof says they're looking over more than three dozen amendments proposed for SB3. He says the main issue is considering if any drug possession charges should be moved from low-level felonies to misdemeanors.

"I think deciding some of the lines is worth taking the time to get right," Obhof says.

The bill comes in response to last year's defeated ballot issue that pushed for treatment over prison time. Obhof and other lawmakers wanted the issue handled in the legislature.

He says part of the discussion is over what thresholds to create for possession.

"That draws a distinction between people who are caught in the cycle of addiction, who need help getting out of it, who have the opportunity to become productive members of society again.," Obhof says. "Being able to help that along versus people who are preying on our communities, who are doing things like selling fentanyl or trafficking in other drugs."

Obhof says he hopes to get different parties into a room to iron out the details.

Last week, the Ohio ACLU and the Ohio chapter of Americans for Prosperity said they are no longer supporting the bill because lawmakers added an amendment that would toughen penalties for people convicted within 1,000 feet of a drug-treatment center.

The language does not require officers or prosecutors to prove a person knew they were in proximity of a treatment center, a distinction that the ACLU says "will have widespread negative effects."

"Given our attention to, work on, and constant pushback against the Ohio legislature’s support of mass incarceration, how could we possibly support SB 3 now with new language that deliberately increases our prison numbers, wiping out any gains SB 3 might otherwise accomplish?" writes Gary Daniels in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.