Ohio’s State Issue 1, which would reduce or eliminate prison time for low-level drug possession convictions, was rejected by voters on Tuesday.
Issue 1 would have changed low-level, nonviolent, simple drug possession crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. It would have also required things like community service for people who violate probation, instead of sending them to prison.
Issue 1 would have additionally given people a chance to earn credit to rehabilitate themselves and direct all prison cost savings to local drug treatment programs.
The Yes on Issue 1 Campaign released the following statement upon hearing the news:
Despite the outcome, the Yes on Issue 1 campaign changed Ohio for generations to come.
“We always knew that, win or lose, the Yes on Issue 1 campaign is the beginning, not the end. The coalition of everyday Ohioans that make this campaign possible are just getting started. Our opponents may celebrate tonight, but tomorrow they will wake up with the same crisis on their hands, and not one step closer to real solutions,” said Dennis Willard, spokesperson for the Yes on Issue 1 campaign.
“Families in Ohio will lose loved ones each and every day until we can implement real help for those struggling with addiction. The coalition will push to work with newly elected state leaders to advance these reforms. We will keep pushing and advocating and organizing until we win safer communities and more treatment.”
The Yes on Issue 1 campaign collected more than 730,000 signatures, received endorsements from more than 50 organizations, contacted more than 1 million voters, and knocked on more than 300,000 doors
“We’ve already built so much for the work ahead. We built a remarkable and unprecedented campaign that reached voters all over the state with a message of hope and change,” Willard said.
Opponents argued it would take away the incentive of prison time, making those addicted to drugs less likely to seek treatment.
They also claimed there are already laws and treatment programs in place to help those who are addicted.
One man who graduated from drug court said he needed consequences and if time in prison wasn’t a threat, he wouldn’t have gotten sober.
Supporters of Issue 1, including the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, said putting people in behind bars for these low-level possession cases is a waste of prison space and money.
An East Liverpool woman said prison time never helped her get clean but when she got into treatment, she got the mental health services she needed.
Democrat candidate for Ohio governor Richard Cordray has spoken out in support of Issue 1, while Republican Mike DeWine opposed it.