Ohio Measure Eases Drug Crime Penalties, May Trim Sentences

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Ohioans will vote in November on whether to reduce penalties for non-violent drug crimes while allowing many current inmates to seek shorter sentences.

Issue 1 would reduce purchase, possession or use of a host of drugs, including fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and LSD, from felony to misdemeanor offenses. Jail time couldn’t be imposed until the third offense.

The constitutional amendment also allows reductions of up to 25 percent on the sentences of current inmates who participate in rehabilitation, work or educational programming. Only murderers, rapists and child molesters are ineligible.

Opponents argue the measure removes key leverage from judges and prosecutors, particularly when addiction and substance abuse is involved, and is overly broad and dangerous.

Supporters say cost savings would leave more money for drug treatment and crime victim compensation.