BRUNSWICK –– City officials worry the passage of Issue 1, a state constitutional amendment reducing penalties for low-level drug offenses, could increase the amount of drug abuse and overdoses in Brunswick and the state.
“This would result in Ohio having the most lenient drug laws in criminal laws in the U.S. with regard to possession and use of dangerous drugs like fentanyl, heroin and cocaine,” said Ward 3 Councilman Joe Salzgeber.
City Council passed a resolution Monday, with six yes votes and one abstention, opposing the passage of Issue 1. Councilman at-large Brian Ousley abstained from the vote. He said it wasn’t because of his personal beliefs on the matter but because he felt that Council shouldn’t try to sway the community’s ideas or votes.
Although drug use continues in the area, the legislative intervention as proposed is not needed in Ohio, said police Chief Brian Ohlin.
“It continues to be a prevalent problem and drug use leads to other crimes,” Ohlin said. “It’s not just about drug usage and getting people treatment. That’s important, very important, but we already have a lot of those tools in place in Medina County.”
Ohlin said Brunswick police already have a process in place to allow those who do not have any previous charges to seek treatment. If proof of completed treatment is presented to the prosecutor’s office, criminal charges will be dropped, he said.
Supporters of Issue 1 believe the initiative will reduce the amount of people in state prisons for low-level, nonviolent drug possessions, drug use offenses, or for non-criminal probation violations.
Also, passing Issue 1 would provide sentence credits for participation in rehabilitative programs.
Still, many fighting the epidemic in communities with treatment, prevention and enforcement are not in support of the initiative.
Tom Stuber, president and CEO of The LCADA Way, a leading drug treatment and recovery program serving clients in Medina, Lorain and Erie counties, said in a statement that “the amendment as written would make it more difficult to prosecute drug traffickers and takes away from the court available resources for rehabilitating offenders.”
“We believe judges should have the ability to use incarceration when necessary, removing criminals from our streets to directly reduce their ability to spread drugs throughout our communities,” he said.
However, Stuber said LCADA does believe that non-violent individuals with a substance abuse disorder would be best served through rehabilitation.
According to Salzgeber, Brunswick is following the lead of Mansfield, which has already passed a resolution in opposition of Issue 1. Wadsworth and Medina are also considering a similar resolution, he said.