COLUMBUS — A strong push from judges, law enforcement and prosecutors pointed out the many flaws of state Issue 1 and led to its defeat Tuesday.
The measure was failing 65 percent to 35 percent in unofficial election results. The Associated Press called the race at 9:10 p.m.
Allen County voters rejected it 76.2 percent to 23 percent. It failed in Putnam County 87.1 to 12.9 percent, Auglaize County 83.3 to 16.7 percent and Van Wert County, 77.6 to 22.4 percent.
The proposed Ohio constitutional amendment would have made possession of all types of drugs misdemeanors in an effort to reduce the state prison population and divert savings to drug treatment.
Most judicial and law enforcement groups opposed the measure.
Supporters argued Issue 1 would have saved tens of millions of dollars in prison costs, money that would be dedicated not only to drug treatment but to crime victim programs, as well.
Opponents balked at the prospect of basically decriminalizing possession of fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid blamed for thousands of overdose deaths in Ohio.
The issue was personal for Debra Graham, of St. Marys.
“If we are too lenient, the situation is going to get worse. I buried a child, who had cancer, and I don’t want to do it again,” she said.
Others also advocated “a get tough on crime stance” in voting “no” on Issue 1.
“The first time, slap; the second time, give it to them; the third time, make it worse,” said John Ball, of St. Marys.
James Garver, of Columbus Grove, noted, “I don’t want any more criminals on the street.”
Ken McCluer, of Columbus Grove, said “people have to want rehab” in order for it to work. He believed that wouldn’t happen if Issue 1 passed. ” I’m okay with the way it’s set up now.”
Russel Kerfoot, of St. Marys, favored Issue 1 because the status quo isn’t working. “Our current approach to the war on drugs is just dumb. It’s not working, so obviously you have to try something different. I don’t necessarily think that’s a good idea either, but it’s better than what we are doing now,” he said.
Debbie Marshall, of Lima, agreed.
“Our jails and prisons are overcrowded with drug users, and I think they need more treatment. Some of them still need jail time to get their act together, but I think more treatment is necessary.”
Sarah Martin, of Columbus Grove, said the language used in Issue 1 was too vague in regards to funding treatment options. “It was a good attempt, but it did not accomplish what it set out to do. There were a lot of loopholes for criminals to take advantage of,” she said.
The strong opposition from law enforcement swayed LeAnn Mason to vote no. “The cops in town said no. I thought they would know.”
Shirley Burgenstein, of Lima, opposed Issue 1 because she didn’t think it should be a constitutional amendment.