Fairfield County officials representing law enforcement, the judiciary and others added their voices Sept. 25 to the opposition to state Issue 1.
Common Pleas Judges Richard Berens and David Trimmer, Municipal Judges David Landefeld and James Fields, Prosecutor Kyle Witt and Sheriff Dave Phalen joined local police chiefs, county commissioners and others at a news conference to discuss why they oppose the proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot. It would reclassify low-level felonies involving drug possession or use, including fentanyl and heroin, to misdemeanors carrying no jail or prison time. Jail time is an option only on a third offense within two years.
Proponents say it would keep nonviolent drug offenders from incarceration and would free up money for treatment.
Berens said it would destroy judicial discretion to sentence drug offenders appropriately. He said drug users need treatment, but that judicial discretion, including the threat of jail and probation terms, should not be removed.
"Issue 1 turns hard drug use into a crime without consequences," Berens said. "Issue 1 substitutes a one-size-fits-all approach for judicial decision-making."
County Coroner Dr. L. Brian Varney said the addiction problem is continuing to climb.
"It's important to have consequences for people using, abusing and peddling drugs in this county," he said. "I treat addicts. Judges' (orders) help move my patients in the right direction. (Issue 1) would remove that incentive."