COLUMBUS — State Representative Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) lauded the passage of legislation by the Ohio House last week that makes changes to drug trafficking and possession laws regarding cocaine.
House Bill 4 restores the statutory penalties for possession of cocaine and clarifies the penalties for the trafficking of that drug.
Under Ohio’s statutory drug penalty framework, penalties increase with the quantity of the drug involved in the violation. For cocaine, the Ohio Revised Code prescribes five steps or tiers of felony penalties with the increasing amounts of cocaine involved.
“House Bill 4 will give law enforcement officers and prosecutors the tools they need to keep large quantities of drugs, specifically cocaine, off of our streets,” Brenner said. “By passing this bill, we are sending a strong message to drug dealers that we are not going to tolerate our friends and families becoming victims of drug crimes and drug addiction.”
The possession penalties were undone by the Ohio Supreme Court’s recent decision in State v. Gonzales, which determined that only the weight of pure cocaine in a substance could be used to set an offender’s sentence. Because of this, cocaine possession regardless of quantity will, as a practical matter, only be prosecuted as a fifth-degree felony, the lowest penalty under statute, if the law is not amended.
The bill seeks to modify this language to clarify that the total weight of the compound, mixture, preparation or substance containing cocaine is included for penalty purposes, for both offenses of possession and trafficking.
The legislation heads to the Ohio Senate for consideration. The bill includes an emergency clause to make it effective on the day it is signed by the governor.