COLUMBUS—State Representative Bob Cupp (R-Lima) gave sponsor testimony Wednesday in the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee on a bill he introduced to restore the statutory penalties for possession of cocaine. The penalties were undone by the Ohio Supreme Court’s December decision in State v. Gonzales, (Slip Opinion 2016-Ohio-8319). It will also clarify the penalties for trafficking of cocaine.

Representative Cupp and Representative John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) introduced House Bill 4 to modify language in the Ohio Revised Code to clarify that the total compound, mixture, preparation or substance containing cocaine is included for penalty purposes.

The recent State v. Gonzales decision determined that only the weight of pure cocaine in a substance could be used to set an offender’s sentence.

Currently, the labs at the Bureau of Criminal Investigations lack the equipment and accreditation necessary to accurately separate and measure the amount of pure cocaine in a substance.

“The practical implication of the court decision means that any crime of cocaine possession and probably trafficking can only be prosecuted as the lowest degree of felony. Probation is the typical sentence for such an offender. Left unchanged, this incentivizes drug traffickers to possess and transport larger quantities of cocaine. This door must be closed,” Cupp said.

The House Criminal Justice Committee will hear further testimony on Tuesday, February 14. A vote by the full House is expected next week.

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