COLUMBUS—State Representative Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) today announced the passage of legislation by the Ohio House that makes changes to drug trafficking and possession laws regarding cocaine. House Bill 4 restores the statutory penalties for possession of cocaine and clarifies the penalties for the trafficking of cocaine.  Manning is the chair of the House Criminal Justice Committee, which unanimously recommended the bill’s passage in a hearing on Tuesday.



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.



“I’d like to thank former Judge Arredondo for bringing this issue to my attention last year,” Manning said.  “After examining the decision by the Ohio Supreme Court, our focus was to clarify the legislature’s intent regarding the statutory penalties for possession and trafficking of cocaine.  It was important to move this legislation swiftly to give clarity to our law enforcement and judicial systems in Lorain County and across the state.”



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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