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Ohio Lawmakers Work to Move Bill on Drug Sentencing Reform

photo of the Ohio Statehouse
Ohio Statehouse Building

Senate leaders are working on moving a bill that could change the way the state punishes drug possession. The top Senate leader says the plan to change drug sentencing laws is one of the most important pieces of legislation they'll have during this two-year session. 

State Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) says they're looking over more than three dozen amendments proposed for the bill.

He says the main issue is considering if any drug possession charges should be moved from low-level felonies to misdemeanors, and if so where to set the thresholds to draw a distinction between people who struggle with substance abuse and drug traffickers.

"I think deciding where to draw some of the lines is worth taking the time to get right," said Obhof.
The bill is in response to last year's defeated ballot issue that pushed for treatment over prison time. Obhof says he hopes to get different parties into a room to iron out the details.

Obhof says it's important to take a close look at the issue to be able to show leniency to people with a substance abuse disorder while still crack down on drug traffickers.

"That draws a distinction between people who are caught in the cycle of addiction, who need help getting out of it, who have the opportunity to become productive members of society again," said Obhof.  "Being able to help that along versus people who are preying on our communities who are doing things like selling fentanyl or trafficking in other drugs."

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.