Pubdate: Mon, 22 Jul 2002
Source: Plain Dealer, The (OH)
Copyright: 2002 The Plain Dealer
Author: Edward J. Orlett and Austin Kuder


The Plain Dealer editorial of July 14 on the Ohio Drug Treatment Initiative 
sums up opponents' arguments against it. Readers will want to consider 
information in support of this issue as well.

The initiative would provide treatment instead of jail time for nonviolent, 
first-or second-time drug possession offenders only. Drug traffickers, 
violent offenders and drivers under the influence would not be eligible.

Treatment is not required for those who reject it or screw up. They would 
go to jail, just the same as they do now. Judges are given that authority, 
contrary to what opponents claim. For verification, a copy of the 
initiative may be found at

Drug treatment instead of prison will save money. Prison costs six times as 
much as treatment for a year in Ohio. Thousands of young Ohioans get a 
"scarlet F" (felony) record for drug possession. This disqualifies them for 
student loans and many job opportunities.

This initiative has nothing to do with legalizing or decriminalizing 
marijuana or any other drug. The legislature decriminalized marijuana in 
this state 25 years ago.

What is proposed is the logical extension and expansion of the present 
drug-court system. Only half, or 24, of Ohio's drug courts process adult 
felony offenders. These courts serve a total of only about 1,500 of the 
6,000 Ohioans charged with felony drug possession each year.

The initiative is a constitutional amendment, as any Ohio ballot issue that 
appropriates money must be. Ohio voters have passed 18 previous 
appropriation amendments to address other social problems. Why not an 
amendment for this important social need?

Legislation similar to this initiative has not received a hearing in Ohio. 
A ballot issue - with funding - is the only way to address Ohio's drug 

Ohio voters should pass this good amendment.

Edward J. Orlett, Columbus
Orlett is director of the Ohio Campaign for New Drug Policies.
- ----------------------------------------------
The Plain Dealer came out opposing the amendment to reduce incarceration 
for drug possession. The Plain Dealer thinks that the status quo is just 
fine, regarding the government's reaction to drug use - regardless of the 
fact that millions of people have been imprisoned. Regardless of the fact 
that officials are spending billions of our tax dollars limiting our 
freedom and treating us like children. Regardless of the fact that they 
have decimated the Bill of Rights by executing the war on drugs. The Plain 
Dealer thinks that it's better to imprison people than to help them.

The purpose of the amendment is to break the cycle of addiction with 
treatment. Plain Dealer editorial writers object. To halt the wasteful 
expense of incarceration. They object. To enhance the public safety by 
preserving prison space for violent offenders. They object.

Austin Kuder

Seven Hills
- ---
MAP posted-by: Beth