Election 2002: Ohio 10/18/02

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Issue 1, a "treatment not jail" initiative sponsored by the Campaign for New Drug Policies (http://www.cndp.org), has become a largely partisan campaign issue, with the state's Republican political establishment, headed by Gov. Robert Taft and his drug warrior wife, Hope, working with drug war bureaucrats from the Bush administration to defeat the measure. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tim Hagan has endorsed the initiative, and press reports this week indicated that the high rollers behind the effort may be shifting their last minute advertising buys from supporting the initiative to supporting Hagan.

That is a clear sign that the initiative is in serious trouble. Reform backers are reading the same polls as everyone else, and the news isn't good. A mid-September poll for the Cleveland Plain Dealer found the measure losing, 55% to 30%, while an October 6 poll for the Columbus Dispatch had similar results, with the measure failing by 51% to 31%.

Supporters of Issue 1 have accused Gov. Taft and other state officials of illegally interfering with the initiative (visit http://www.ips-dc.org/projects/drugpolicy/ohio.htm for an investigative report by Dan Forbes) and also cried foul over the language that will appear on the ballot. The ballot language says the measure will cost $247 million for drug treatment over seven years, but doesn't explain that the measure would generate huge savings in corrections costs.

"If we can't pass drug reform in Ohio through the initiative process because the governor's stacked the deck against us, it makes more sense for us to try to change who the governor is," CNDP strategist Bill Zimmerman told the Associated Press on Tuesday. "It would be to shift resources to an independent expenditure committee that supports Hagan and opposes Taft."

DRCNet did not know as of press time whether a final decision had been made.

Issue 1 on the ballot:

To adopt Section 24 of Article IV of the Constitution of the State of Ohio. In order to provide for persons charged with or convicted of illegal possession or use of a drug, in certain circumstances, to choose treatment instead of incarceration, to require the state to spend two hundred forty-seven million dollars ($247,000,000) over seven (7) fiscal years to pay for the drug treatment programs, to allow the applicable records of offenders who complete treatment instead of incarceration for illegal drug use and possession to be sealed and kept confidential for most purposes, and to limit the maximum sentence to ninety (90) days incarceration that eligible first-time, second-time, and certain repeat illegal drug possession or use offenders could serve, this amendment would:
  1. Require a court to order treatment instead of incarceration for first-time or second-time offenders charged with or convicted of illegal possession or use of a drug who request treatment, have not been convicted of or imprisoned for a violent felony within five years of committing the current offense, have not been sentenced to a term of incarceration that would interfere with participation in treatment, and in the same proceeding have not been convicted of or charged with other drug-related offenses or misdemeanors involving theft, violence or the threat of violence.
  2. Allow a court to order treatment instead of incarceration for eligible repeat offenders charged with or convicted of illegal possession or use of a drug who request treatment, and for offenders charged with or convicted of illegal possession or use of a drug who are also charged with or convicted of other nonviolent offenses resulting from drug abuse or addiction and who request treatment.
  3. Create a Substance Abuse Treatment Fund and require the state to spend a total of two hundred and forty-seven million dollars ($247,000,000) to pay for the treatment, breaking down to nineteen million dollars ($19,000,000) for the remainder of the 2003 fiscal year and thirty-eight million dollars ($38,000,000) annually through fiscal year 2009, in addition to requiring the state to maintain its current spending to fund existing substance abuse treatment programs through fiscal year 2009, and to require the state to continue to provide adequate resources for these purposes after fiscal year 2009.
  4. Limit the period of treatment a court may impose to not more than twelve (12) months, allow an extension of the treatment period for not more than six (6) more months, and allow court supervision of an offender for up to ninety (90) days after treatment.
  5. Limit the sentencing of first-time, second-time, and certain repeat offenders who are eligible for treatment but who either do not request treatment or do not meet the terms of the treatment to a maximum of ninety (90) days incarceration for illegal possession or use of a drug.
  6. Limit the authority of judges who place eligible offenders into treatment to remove those offenders from the programs.
  7. Require a court to dismiss legal proceedings against an offender without a finding of guilt if the offender completes the treatment.
  8. Allow an offender who successfully completes the treatment to have applicable records sealed and to have the conviction that prompted the request for treatment expunged, and require that the sealed or expunged records be kept confidential except for specified law enforcement and court related purposes.
Visit http://www.state.oh.us/sos/2002Iss1Gen.htm for further information on the Question.

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