Local officials expressed gratitude to Delaware County and Ohio voters after Issue 1 failed to gain enough votes to become a constitutional amendment.
The proposed Ohio constitutional amendment would have reduced fourth- and fifth-degree drug possession charges to misdemeanors, and judges would not have been allowed to sentence subjects in those cases to jail time. Instead, it would have required that they be placed on probation in drug treatment programs.
Issue 1 went to voters on Nov. 6 and failed with 36.6 percent of Ohio voters voting “yes”(1,568,347 votes) and 63.4 percent voting “no” (2,716,958). Locally, the amendment got 31,491 “yes” votes and 59,612 “no” votes.
The goal of the amendment was to get more individuals in treatment programs and send less people to prison, but judges across the state, including Delaware County Common Pleas Judge David M. Gormley, opposed the amendment and argued that locally, the amendment would “undercut a very effective program.”
In October, Gormley said he prefers to send individuals in drug cases to intervention instead of prison, and the threat of prison time was an effective motivator in the recovery process.
“Voters in Delaware County and across Ohio clearly understood that Issue 1 was a bad idea,” Gormley said Thursday. “Taking away from judges the ability to impose consequences on those persons who use illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin, LSD and hashish, would not have helped drug addicts or made our communities safer.”
Likewise, Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin opposed the amendment and encouraged legislators to come up with a better solution.
“While we are grateful Issue 1 failed, and we believe it would have undermined the progress and work that has been done, we still have a lot of work to do around this problem,” Martin said Thursday. “Our legislature needs to continue to work on the solutions with the practitioners on the front line. Complex problems require collaborative solutions. This is a prevention, treatment, public safety and public health issue.”
On Wednesday, Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) said he is hoping to file legislation before the end of the year to lower drug penalties and increase treatment options.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.