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Farm Bureau encourages “no” vote on State Issue 1

The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation board of trustees has announced the organization’s opposition to State Issue 1, misleadingly called the Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Amendment.

Farm Bureau, Ohio’s largest organization for farm, food and rural interests, believes Issue 1 is not a viable approach to the state’s opioid crisis.

“Our state and county Farm Bureaus have been at the forefront of drug abuse prevention in rural Ohio,” said Frank Burkett III, a dairy farmer and president of Ohio Farm Bureau. “We’ve dug deeply into understanding Ohio’s massive drug problems. Issue 1 runs counter to much of what our members believe are effective steps to reducing the impact of drugs on our communities.”

The organization also believes that a constitutional amendment is not the best mechanism for addressing Ohio’s addiction and drug trafficking problems, especially when the initiative is funded by large out-of-state interests.

Farm Bureau trustees also were concerned that Issue 1 would harm the Ohio court system’s ability to effectively deal with illegal drugs. Further, Issue 1 could be a heavy burden on Ohio taxpayers with few assurances of positive results. Other concerns include negative impacts on crime rates and on the availability of a reliable workforce.

“Farm Bureau joins with law enforcement, judges and prosecutors, prevention agencies, business groups, elected officials, leading editorial boards and others to encourage Ohioans to vote no on State Issue 1,” Burkett said.  “We need solutions to the drug crisis, but Issue 1 is not the answer.”

Here is some background on Issue 1 prepared by the Ohio Farm Bureau.


What Is Issue 1?

Issue 1, named by supporters as “The Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation Amendment” is a proposed amendment to Ohio’s Constitution that is purported to “reduce the number of people in state prison for low-level, nonviolent drug possession or drug use offenses”. In short, Issue 1 would:

  • make offenses related to drug possession and use no more than misdemeanors;
  • prohibit courts from ordering persons on probation for felonies be sent to prison for non-criminal probation violations;
  • create a sentence credits program for inmates’ participation in rehabilitative, work, or educational programs; and
  • require the state to spend savings due to a reduction of inmates, resulting from Issue 1, on drug treatment, crime victim, and rehabilitation programs.

Supporters of Issue 1

Financial contributors include billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, Nicholas and Susan Pritzker of San Francisco and George Soros’ Open Society Policy Center. The Yes on Issue 1 campaign received $4.5 million of the $4.8 million from out of state sources, according to campaign finance reports filed in July.

Arguments in favor of Issue 1

  • Saves taxpayers money: Ohio spends more than $1.8 billion per year on a broken prison system where too many people who pose little public safety risk are incarcerated while treatment and prevention programs suffer. Issue 1 will save tens of millions of dollars annually in prison spending and direct the savings to addiction treatment and victims of crime.
  • Puts our public safety dollars to better use: Wasting law enforcement resources and prison on people struggling with addiction makes no sense. Treatment and supervision work better to improve public safety than a revolving prison door.
  • Reduces recidivism: expands earned credit programs so that qualified people can be considered for release if they participate in rehabilitation programs. Experts agree that requiring people to earn their way out of prison through rehabilitation reduces the likelihood they’ll commit more crimes.
  • Protects public safety: The amendment was carefully written to ensure that people that are a danger to public safety remain incarcerated. No one convicted of murder, rape or child molestation will benefit from any aspect of this measure.

Other opponents of Issue 1

  • Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association
  • Ohio Common Pleas Judges Association
  • Ohio Association of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
  • Association of Municipal and County Court Judges of Ohio
  • Ohio State Bar Association
  • Buckeye State Sheriffs Association
  • Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police
  • Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association
  • Ohio Crime Victim Justice Center
  • Ohio Business Roundtable
  • County Auditors Association of Ohio
  • Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor
  • Attorney General Mike DeWine

Arguments Opposing Issue 1

Issue 1 is dangerous:

  • Possession or use of any amount of deadly drugs like fentanyl, heroin, and meth will result in probation — lighter punishment than offenses like disorderly conduct and reckless operation.
  • The message to children is that these drugs are not dangerous.
  • The message to drug traffickers is that doing business in Ohio is low risk.
  • Violent offenders cannot be sent to prison for probation violations. They will be free to disregard judges’ orders with little consequence.
  • It undermines treatment: Treatment for addiction is not provided or required by this amendment. An addict is on his own in getting sober.
  • Courts connect addicts to treatment and help motivate success.
  • Many addicts forego treatment entirely without the threat of prison.
  • The proposal dooms effective treatment efforts in courts across Ohio.

Reduces sentences for violent offenders:

  • Drug traffickers, human traffickers, aggravated robbers, and others will be eligible for up to a 25% sentence reduction.
  • Victims of violent crime will receive only partial justice.
  • Issue 1 places the rehabilitation and well-being of those who break the law ahead of the rehabilitation and well-being of innocent victims

It is an unfunded mandate. It shifts costs to local government:

  • Proponents speculate that savings from letting violent offenders and drug offenders out of prison will result in millions of dollars for treatment.
  • It is not clear that the savings will be anything other than a one-time savings.
  • Speculation about savings is not the same as dedicated funding.
  • Local taxpayers will be left with the bill.

The language and goals of Issue 1 is better suited to be in statute and not Ohio’s Constitution.


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