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Editorial: Issue 1 must be defeated at polls

On Tuesday, voters in Ohio will decide on Issue 1, a ballot measure that would reduce sentences for crimes of obtaining, possessing and using illegal drugs.

Supported by the advocacy arm of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and other out-of-state interests, this issue has been the source of considerable controversy.

Here in Lawrence County, a number of judges, law enforcement officials and candidates from both parties have spoken out in opposition to the measure, stating it would be a hindrance in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

The synthetic opioid fentanyl has been the cause of so many overdose deaths in our region and as opponents of Issue 1 have pointed out, the measure would make the penalty for possessing 19 grams of the drug, enough to kill 10,000 people, a misdemeanor.

As Lawrence Common Pleas Judge Andy Ballard said at the Burlington Meet the Candidates forum in October, “Issue 1 will make communities in Lawrence County less safe.”

This would make it next to impossible for law enforcement to get the opioid epidemic under control in our state.

While we feel Issue 1 must be defeated, we also see the need for reform regarding drug sentencing.

There are far too many in prisons nationwide for nonviolent drug offenses, and these sentences have been handed out disproportionately and unfairly to minorities.

But, given the crisis in Ohio, the need for judges to use all methods at their disposal remains.

There are changes needed in sentencing laws, but Issue 1 is not the way to go about it.

Rather, than a one-size-fits all solution shoved onto the ballot from out-of-state interests, it would better serve the state to have a conversation with local and regional leaders and to craft a solution at the legislative level that is specific to Ohio.

The Tribune urges all voters to cast a ‘No’ vote on Issue 1 next week, as the changes proposed are ill-conceived and could have disastrous consequences.

However, we also encourage the public to demand that lawmakers fill the void and take action to address drug sentencing in a more comprehensive manner, with input from those at the front lines of the opioid epidemic.