Small Reforms Aid In Fight Against Drug Abuse
Guest Column from State Representative Andy Thompson
March 28, 2017
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One of the most pressing issues that state is dealing with—both at the community and government level—is the outbreak of drug abuse and addiction. Considering every component of this issue, my fellow members and I in the Ohio House are enacting legislation to take on Ohio’s drug epidemic, from cracking down on drug dealers and traffickers to enabling better access to rehabilitative care for the drug-addicted.

The Ohio House recently took steps to restore statutory penalties for the possession of cocaine and clarify penalties for the trafficking of cocaine. Sponsored by Representative Bob Cupp, House Bill 4 would reinstate possession penalties undone by the Ohio Supreme Court’s recent decision in State vs. Gonzales. The court’s ruling sparked the need for this legislation, which would clarify that the total weight of the compound, mixture, or substance containing cocaine is included for penalty purposes, rather than just the weight of the pure cocaine itself. This change would apply to both the offenses of possession and trafficking.

Without this language codified in Ohio law, prosecutors may be forced to determine the actual weight of the pure cocaine to sentence those who deal and possess the illegal substance, a process that is often difficult to carry out. Additionally, without this reform, this loophole could incentivize drug dealers to push great quantities of cocaine without any greater penalty.

Since the bill’s passage in the Ohio House, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed its decision on this matter. However, the case demonstrates the need for this language in Ohio law. Otherwise, ambiguity still exists when sentencing the criminals who peddle cocaine throughout our streets. A big part of the fight against the drug scourge is to eliminate these substances as completely as possible and bring dealers to justice. House Bill 4 is an important aid in that goal.

I was proud to vote for this legislation on the House floor and hope for its passage in the Ohio Senate, where it is now being considered. While policies that promote access to life-saving drugs and increased funds to addiction services are important, it is often through small changes like those made by House Bill 4 that we can prevent further negative impact from illegal drugs.

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