Issue 1 goes too far

Ohioans going to the polls on Nov. 6 will have the opportunity to pass judgment on an idea suggested for many years — virtual decriminalization of most illegal drug offenses.

If approved, Issue 1 would reduce sentences drastically for purchase, possession or use of illicit drugs, including heroin, cocaine and fentanyl. In fact, the first and second offenses could be punished by no more than probation.

Proponents of the idea insist it would lessen overcrowding in jails and prisons, freeing up money for drug treatment programs and helping crime victims.

It also would tie the hands of prosecutors and judges. It would erase the possibility of punishment for drug abuse, in the minds of many offenders. They would have little or no incentive, from that standpoint, to stay away from illegal drugs in the first place or find ways to kick addictions later.

Issue 1 includes some good ideas. One is giving offenders time off jail and prison sentences if they participate in drug treatment programs.

But potential ill effects of the proposal more than cancel out its desirable facets. Telling drug offenders, in effect, that they get three strikes before they are sent to prison is a terrible idea. For some addicts, it could be deadly.

Buckeye State voters should say no to Issue 1 — then seek to have the good ideas contained in it reconsidered through a subsequent proposal.


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