COLUMBUS—State Representative Mark Romanchuk(R-Ontario) this week announced the passage of legislation by the Ohio House that makes changes to drug trafficking and possession laws regarding cocaine. House Bill 4, sponsored by Reps. Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and John Rogers (D-Mentor on the Lake), restores the statutory penalties for possession of cocaine and clarifies the penalties for the trafficking of cocaine.


Under Ohio’s statutory drug penalty framework, penalties increase with the quantity of the drug involved in the violation. For cocaine, the Ohio Revised Code prescribes five steps or tiers of felony penalties with the increasing amounts of cocaine involved.


The possession penalties were undone by the Ohio Supreme Court’s recent decision in State v. Gonzales, which determined that only the weight of pure cocaine in a substance could be used to set an offender’s sentence. Because of this, cocaine possession, regardless of quantity, will, as a practical matter, only be prosecuted as a fifth degree felony, the lowest penalty under statute, if the law is not amended.


House Bill 4 seeks to modify this language to clarify that the total weight of the compound, mixture, preparation or substance containing cocaine is included for penalty purposes, for both offenses of possession and trafficking.


“The drug epidemic has been detrimental to our communities, and those who contribute need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Rep. Romanchuk. “House Bill 4 is a step in the right direction to ensure those who sell or possess cocaine are held accountable.”


The legislation now heads to the Ohio Senate for consideration. The bill includes an emergency clause to make it effective on the day it is signed by the Governor.

 
 
 
  
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