Senate Bill 3 bad for our communities and children
To the editor:
Last fall Ohio voters overwhelmingly rejected Issue One, which sought to drastically reduce penalties on drug dealers and repeat drug offenders. Senate Bill 3 seeks to use tax dollars to make Ohio lenient on drug dealers and eliminate accountability for drug users at the expense of our public safety. Nearly all property crimes and violent offenses have their roots in substance abuse. SB 3 is bad for our communities and our children.
SB 3 will decrease penalties for drug dealers. Rest assured, drug dealers know drug laws as well as their lawyers and typically carry with them only amounts that, if caught, keep the penalties light. Currently, a drug dealer who possesses 100 doses of heroin faces a mandatory sentence of two to eight years in prison. Under SB 3, drug dealers possessing up to 299 doses of heroin (with a street value of $4,500-$6,000) may be placed on probation. Under SB 3, possessing up to 49 doses of heroin, worth nearly $1,000, will be only a misdemeanor offense. Changing our laws to make selling drugs more profitable makes no sense.
SB 3 will make treatment of addiction more challenging by decriminalizing possession of illegal drugs. Even when protected by the recently enacted “Good Samaritan Law” our office now commonly encounters addicts who refuse to seek even a simple evaluation for treatment. Only when faced with possible incarceration are most addicts motivated to get help. SB 3 will teach our children that sticking a needle filled with heroin in your arm is no more serious than underage drinking. It eliminates personal accountability and sends the wrong message to our children.
Proponents of SB 3 like to suggest that felony drug convictions prevent people from becoming gainfully employed. The persons I see in court are already unemployed because of their addiction and total lack of motivation. They are often unable to make it to court on time let alone punch the company time clock regularly. Moreover, Ohio already has one of the most liberal expungement laws in the country. Even people with multiple felony convictions can now have their criminal records expunged. All it takes is a commitment to stay clean and stop committing crimes.
SB 3 is, unfortunately, the same misguided policy we saw last year with State Issue One. If we have learned anything at all, it is that drugs like heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine are deadly. Our laws should treat people who possess these substances in a manner consistent with our community values — particularly those people who possess large quantities. Prosecutors, judges and defense lawyers work daily to craft individual solutions to the drug epidemic. For drug dealers, that should mean prison. For first-time and second-time abusers, it usually means treatment-based programs in the beginning. What Ohio really needs from our legislature is a commitment to provide communities with treatment options for those who find themselves in trouble with the law because of their addiction. SB 3 is definitely not the answer.
Chief Assistant Columbiana County
Prosecuting Attorney John Gamble,