Vote no on Issue 1

Dear citizens of Seneca County:

As elected officials, we have the honor and responsibility to serve our community to the best of our ability. In that vein, we collectively believe we have an obligation to speak out against Issue 1, the proposed Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation amendment to the Ohio Constitution, which is set to appear on the ballot this November.

The Code of Judicial Conduct governing our profession encourages judges to publicly comment on matters concerning the administration of justice. As such, we join Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, the Ohio Common Pleas Judges Association, the Association of Municipal and County Court Judges of Ohio, the Ohio Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the Ohio Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, the Seneca County Opiate Task Force and the Seneca County commissioners in their stand against Issue 1. We ask that you consider the following when making your decision regarding Issue 1 on Election Day.

Issue 1 prohibits Ohio prosecutors from charging someone who uses or possesses certain potentially deadly amounts of drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine or fentanyl with a crime more serious than a misdemeanor, regardless of whether that individual is a first-time offender or a repeat offender convicted multiple times before for drug-related offenses. Under Issue 1, a judge cannot sentence the offender to jail until he or she has two prior convictions in the two previous years. Instead, the offender must be placed on probation, thereby decreasing the chance that the offender will receive the treatment and help he or she needs and increasing the probability that the offender will return to our community and resume illegal and dangerous drug related activities.

We agree with O’Connor’s belief that Issue 1 will have catastrophic consequences for our state. If passed, Issue 1 will reincentivize drug dealers to distribute drugs in Ohio because, pursuant to Issue 1, they can avoid incarceration if caught. In addition, by removing a judge’s ability to threaten the possibility of incarceration when appropriate, Issue 1 will hamper the use of drug courts in Ohio, such as Seneca County’s PIVOT program, which are connecting drug abusers to the help they need. Further, if Issue 1 does not have the advertised effect of decreasing the opioid epidemic in Ohio, our state constitution will have to be amended yet again, which will take time and another statewide election. Simply put, we don’t have the luxury of time when it comes to the war on drugs.

We are concerned that the passage of Issue 1 may singlehandedly flood our community’s streets with drugs and significantly hinder our efforts to guide drug offenders into treatment, future success and a lifetime of recovery. Please join us in voting “no” on Issue 1.

Thank you,

Judge Jay A. Meyer,

Judge Michael P. Kelbley, Judge Mark E. Repp and Judge Steve C. Shuff