Rogers Applauds Ohio Supreme Court On Restoring Cocaine Trafficking Penalties
Court reversal aligns state penalties with northeast Ohio lawmaker's bill
March 06, 2017
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State Rep. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) today applauded the Ohio Supreme Court’s 5-2 decision reversal in State v. Gonzales, which will restore state penalties for cocaine trafficking. Rogers, along with Rep. Robert Cupp (R-Lima), sponsored House Bill (HB) 4, legislation recently passed by the House to restore the cocaine penalties invalidated by the court’s initial decision in this case. Rogers today indicated he still intends to pursue passage of HB 4 into law to bring greater clarity to state drug trafficking penalties. 

“I was delighted to learn today that the Ohio Supreme Court reversed their State v. Gonzales decision, effectively returning cocaine trafficking penalties to what the General Assembly intended,” said Rogers. “The court’s initial decision would have incentivized drug dealers to traffic large quantities of cocaine without risk of a higher penalty, jeopardizing the safety of communities all across Ohio.” 

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. Due to the court’s decision and lack of Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) testing capability, cocaine possession—regardless of quantity—would have only been prosecuted as a fifth degree felony, the lowest penalty under statute. 

With today’s decision reversal, the court now holds that the entire “compound, mixture, preparation, or substance,” including any fillers that are part of the drug, must be considered to determine the appropriate penalty for cocaine possession. 

“I thank the Supreme Court for being cognizant of the potential downsides of their initial decision, as well as for their prompt reversal,” said Rogers. “I also thank my fellow legislative colleagues for recognizing this critical issue and acting to keep all Ohio communities safe.” 

House Bill 4, which passed unanimously out of the House last month, is expected to receive a second hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee tomorrow.

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