Ohio Initiative Would End Prison for Drug Possession [FEATURE]

Progressive voters in battleground Ohio will have one more reason to head to the polls next month. Not only do they have a chance to put a Democrat in the governor's mansion and reelect US Senator Sherrod Brown, but they also will have the opportunity to enact a dramatic sentencing reform that will keep thousands of non-violent drug offenders out of prison and help inmates currently serving time for drug possession get back into their communities sooner.

Issue 1, the smartly named Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment, would:

  • Reclassify drug possession offenses as misdemeanor crimes, except for drug possession or trafficking offenses currently categorized as first-, second- or third-degree felonies;
  • Prohibit jail sentences for drug possession until an individual's third offense within 24 months;
  • Allow inmates convicted of nonviolent crimes to reduce their sentences up to 25 percent for completing rehabilitative, work or educational programming;
  • Apply cost savings from reduced prison expenses to drug treatment programs and crime victim services.

That's right, passage of Issue 1 would effectively defelonize drug possession in the Buckeye State. At least 16 states have already taken similar steps to ratchet down the drug war, including California, New York, and neighboring Pennsylvania. And now, thanks to local grassroots organizing backed by some big outside money, Ohio could be next.

It could use the help. The state's prison population has hovered around 50,000 for nearly two decades after rising dramatically during the height of drug war repression in the 1980s and 1990s, and nearly a quarter of inmates are doing time for drug offenses. Unsurprisingly, Ohio suffers the same sort of racial disparities as the rest of the country, with blacks more than five times as likely to be imprisoned as whites, and Latinos nearly twice as likely. The state's resort to mass incarceration costs it around $2 billion a year in corrections costs.

The initiative is the brainchild of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, a coalition of 20 community organizations, faith institutions, labor unions, and policy groups across the state, and its Ohio Safe and Healthy Communities campaign. Its aim is to reduce mass incarceration and racial disparities in the criminal justice system and increase access to drug treatment. Issue 1 would "invest in proven treatment for addiction instead of more spending on bloated prisons," explained campaign manager Amanda Hoyt.

While the initiative is homegrown, the funding for it is coming mainly from out-of-staters. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has kicked in $1 million, and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz's Open Philanthropy Project ponied up another $1 million. George Soros's Open Society Policy Center provided $1.5 million, while California businessman Nicholas Pritzker and his wife Susan added another $60,000. Of the $4.8 million raised by the campaign, all but $19,000 came from out of state.

"Relying on incarceration to solve addiction and the conditions that drive lower-level crimes actually doesn't make communities safer, and it results in huge expenses to taxpayers with devastating impact to individuals, families, and entire communities," said Ana Zamora, criminal justice manager at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, in a statement.

Issue 1 will "put taxpayer dollars to better use by reducing reliance on prisons to address certain nonviolent offenses, including drug use and possession," Zamora added.

The opposition to Issue 1 isn't nearly as deep-pocketed, but it represents much of the state's criminal justice and Republican political establishment. No opposition political action committees have reported donations, but groups such as the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Ohio Common Pleas Judges' Association, the Association of Municipal and County Court Judges of Ohio, the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association, and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police have all come out against Issue 1.

And while Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray has endorsed Issue 1, current Republican Gov. John Kasich, GOP gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine, all the Republicans running for statewide office, and the state Republican Party itself have all announced their opposition.

"Unfortunately, Issue 1 is a one-sided proposal that will weaken the tools available to our elected representatives, county prosecutors, and judges to make and enforce laws. It will eliminate important incentives to encourage drug treatment for the addicted, and allow the drug dealers who prey on addiction to freely roam the streets," said former secretary of state Ken Blackwell in rhetoric typical of the opposition.

Other opponents resorted to hyperbolic "sends the wrong message" arguments. "The message to children is that these drugs are not dangerous; the message to drug dealers is that doing business in Ohio is low-risk," warned Louis Tobin, executive director of the prosecutors' association, and Paul Pfeifer, executive director of the Ohio Judicial Conference, in their official argument.

It must be noted that Issue 1 defelonizes only drug possession -- not drug distribution.

There has been no polling to determine what kind of support the measure has, at least none announced publicly. Will an energized Democratic base carry the day for Democrats and Issue 1 in a closely divided state on Election Day? That remains to be seen, but all those millions in campaign funds should help buy plenty of TV ads and influence voters in these final weeks. Stay tuned.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!
Dain Bramage's picture

Trump Is Worse Than A Liar. He's A Bullshitter!


Liars and Bullshitters.  There is a difference.

Trump is a Bullshitter. 

Liars want and need for you to believe their untruth.  Bullshitters don't care whether you believe them or not -- they just want you to stop questioning them and their behavior, and go away. 

Understand the difference between lies and bullshit.  Consider the expression "Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we conspire to deceive."

 The quotation applies to Liars; but it does not apply to Bullshitters, because Bullshitters have abandoned all pretense of consistency in argument, reasoning, or fact.

Trump's lies, and the lies of all the Republicans supporting RAPIST KAVANAUGH, are the condescending lies of a dictator who knows you will agree, eventually, or he will kill you.  "Might makes right, as Fear makes clear."


Journalists, you might want to consider a "buddy system" for walking around in the open! No shit,  things are getting more fascist by the minute.


Dain Bramage's picture

Reefer Madness vs Alternative Facts

If you are a Republican, you are inherently an enemy to marijuana legalization.


Republicans are ALWAYS an enemy to marijuana legalization, no matter what they say, or how much money they may donate to the cause, and here's why:

A) If you can't fight Reefer Madness, you can't be a Legalizer.

B) If you can't fight Alternative Facts, you can't fight Reefer Madness.

C) If you don't respect Truth, you can't fight Reefer Madness or Alternative Facts.

D) If you vote Republican, YOU DON'T RESPECT TRUTH.

Dain Bramage's picture

Republicans and Racial Disparities in MJ Arrest Rates

Republicans will either deny the racial disparities in marijuana arrest rates, or try to justify them!

Now, how are racist assholes like that qualified to represent the cause of marijuana legalization?  They're not!  They are white supremacists!  They follow Traitor Trump around like pigeons chasing pieces of Bunny Bread tossed by a pedestrian in the park!  That makes them assuredly unmoored from either Truth or Justice, or even any basic deceny -- just look at their open contempt for sexual assault victims...  when it suits their purposes.

I will go back underground before I will let a Republican speak for me and my views on marijuana legalization.

Posting of Dan Bramage

First let me say I am a political atheist and am not a big supported of President Bonespurs. That being said, let me get down to the issue at hand.

Reading the posting of Dain Bramage really makes me ill because he is apparently of many individuals that has posted venom and hatreds towards folks that are supporters of an alternate political philosophy. Specifically, he feels that the Democratic Party is the party of honesty and sacrosanct values such as Justice for Women and minorities. He calls Kavanaugh a "rapist" even though there was never any evidence to support that serious alligation other than a woman who is seriously dealing with her deep psychological issues. She blatently lied about her phoebias while testifying to a Senate Committee There wasn't a wimper about a perjury chage for her inaccurate testimony). In a court of law, it is doubtful that any prosecutor  would have place such a person on the witness stand..  Yet, this California fruit cake has become the darling of the Democratic Party. We can thank Feinstein & Co for further disparaging the Democratic Party in the eyes of non alleigned votes nationally.

This is hardly a party of honesty and fairness or an organization dedicated to Due Process and the rights of the accused.

In one of the writers posting he refers to "Lieing, stealing and corrution" - and for a moment I figured he was writing about the Clintons and the Clinton Foundation. Talk about a sexual pervert and I would say that Bill Clinton would easily get my nomination. This is not based on unsubstantuated alligations either. I will never forget -" I never had sex with that woman" statement from the darling of the Democratic establishment. Not a mumor in this whole Kavanaugh mess about "Bill The Sicko".

So in summary, I think it would be fair to conclude that DAIN is a hypocrite who is apparently blinded by his hate as depicated in his ramblings. Unfortunately, this whole spectical that the Democrats have recently put on in the Senate has shown me that the Democratic Party is a party of the far left that could never accomodate my centralist views. I think they would do well to jetison the likes of Feinstein, Schumer and Pulosi and embrace the mederation of centralist such as Joe Manchin if they want to be a serious party in future election. The likes of Dain and his ilk should be recognized as to what they spew- hatred and division based on little evidence .

You don't have to be a Democratic leftist in order to support Drug Law Reform. This point should be crystal clear within Reform movement .

Dain Bramage's picture

Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution?

I'm not here to question your identity or your values.  You do you, Greenbrier Rick!

There are some  people, Trump supporters, who cheer at kids in cages -- and I think such people are evil. There are some people, again, Trump supporters, who laugh openly at rape survivors, applaud treason, and endorse white supremacy and neo-Nazis.  I find such individuals repugnant.  I find Trump and everyone around that traitorous sack of shit to be vile, repugnant creatures.

And as far as the Clintons are concerned, I never mentioned them because NO CLINTON IS RUNNING FOR OFFICE!  (Yeah, you're a Trumpanzee, alright -- you just gave yourself away.  The Clinton obsession.  The Clinton affair was CONSENSUAL on the part of both adults.  It was Ken Starr and Barf Kavanaugh who insisted on sniffing the semen on the blue dress.  Kavanaugh ATTEMPTED RAPE.  You say you're no fan of Trump?  I don't believe you.  It's fashionable to "tut tut" at Trump on the alt-right, isn't it?  I think you ARE a Trump supporter.)

But my fundamental point is this: anyone who "supports Drug Law Reform", as you put it, and who DOESN'T vote Democratic, is part of the problem and not part of the solution.  Why?  Very simple: right now, in 2018,  the Democrats are running on marijuana legalization and health care and a living wage, while the Republicans are running on fascism, sexism, racism, rapism, child-snatching, treason, and more war on drugs.

Third party votes split the progressive vote and enable the evil, vile, Republicans.

No Clintons are running at all.

It's that simple.

Dain Bramage's picture

Drugs are not a crime, Brett. Rape is a crime!

Doing drugs is not a crime.  Getting drunk and attempting to rape a 15-year old girl -- NOW, THAT'S A FUCKING CRIME!!


Dain Bramage's picture


The Republicans are the party of Traitor Trump.

Trump is Putin operative, a traitor, a white supremacist, and a power-mad fascist authoritarian with a taste for cruelty and violence.

Marijuana legalization and fascism are mutually exclusive. Therefore, marijuana legalization and Republicanism are mutually exclusive.

The Resistance is committed to defeating Trump.

If the Resistance fails, then fascism follows; then, marijuana legalization itself fails.

Third Party votes — for Libertarians or Greens — split the progressive vote and enable the evil, vile Republicans.


Dain Bramage's picture

Republicans do not speak for the MJ legalization movement

Is it not self-evident that the marijuana legalization movement cannot afford to be hijacked by neo-Nazi white supremacists?  THAT'S THE GODDAMN REPUBLICAN PARTY!!

Trump and the Republicans are fascist thugs in bed with murderous authoritarian dictators!!  At home, his followers are racist, sexist, brainwashed assholes who actually GET OFF on spewing hateful lies to piss off actual, decent human beings!! For the deplorables, it's all a cruel joke.  For the money-grubbers, it's a crime spree.  For the white supremacists, it's a power grab.  For Putin, it's a military victory over USA.

The number of ways Trump and the Republicans are evil are too numerous to list.  Their capacity for horror has no limit!

Marijuana legalizers are human beings, TOO.  We live in a society, not a political silo.  We care about moral outrages like killing journalists, and putting kids in cages, and treason with hostile foreign powers, and putting rapists and serial sexual assault perps on the Supreme Court and the White House.

You know damn well who the FUCK I am talking about.  Kavanaugh and Trump.  (Yes, there are many others, I admit... Roy Moore... Republicans are sickos for supporting these sickos.)

Face the fact!  Republicans' support for marijuana legalization is RENDERED VOID by their support for their FIRST PRINCIPLE, which is POWER for the Republican party, AT ALL COSTS -- TRUTH AND JUSTICE BE DAMMED! !

Is it not self-evident that these priorities invalidate a Republican's moral authority to speak for the marijuana legalization movement?

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <i> <blockquote> <p> <address> <pre> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <br> <b>

More information about formatting options

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School