Bipartisan Bill To Crack Down On Cocaine Dealers Clears Ohio House
Recent supreme court decision weakens punishment for drug traffickers
February 15, 2017
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State Rep. John M. Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) today hailed the unanimous House passage of House Bill (HB) 4, bipartisan legislation to restore cocaine penalties invalidated by a recent Ohio Supreme Court decision. Rogers is jointly sponsoring the legislation with former Ohio Supreme Court Justice-turned legislator Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Allen County). 

“If left unchecked, the recent Supreme Court ruling will open the floodgate for cocaine-related trafficking and could increase illicit cocaine usage, addiction, overdoses and drug-related violence in our communities,” said Rogers. “Today’s unanimous vote in the Ohio House is an important step towards keeping our communities safe by restoring the intent of the law and enabling law enforcement to indict drug-traffickers and prosecute their cases consistently.” 

In the 2016 case of State v. Gonzales, the court ruled in a split-decision that the legal definition of “cocaine” requires prosecutors to prove the quantity of pure cocaine, rather than the long-standing precedent of providing the total quantity of the mixture containing cocaine. 

The state’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and other crime labs are not currently accredited or may not be equipped to perform quantitative analysis for use as evidence in court proceedings because Ohio law has never previously required the disaggregation of cocaine from a filler in order to meet the quantity requirement for various penalty tiers.   

Due to the court’s decision and lack of BCI testing capability, cocaine possession—regardless of quantity—will only be prosecuted as a fifth degree felony, the lowest penalty under statute, if the current law is not amended. 

HB 4, which passed the House 97-0, also includes an emergency measure for cocaine penalties to be restored to the previous interpretation as soon as the new law takes effect.

 The bill now goes to the Senate for further consideration. 

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