A proposal that would lower the penalties for drug possession from felonies to misdemeanors in an effort to keep low-level offenders out of prison garnered more than enough signatures and will be on the November ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment, State Issue 1.
Another group hoping to add an amendment to Ohio’s Constitution that would increase regulations and cap profits for kidney dialysis clinics did not collect enough valid signatures to make the November ballot.
While the Kidney Dialysis Patient Protection Amendment did not meet the 305,591 signature requirement, according to Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office, petitioners will have 10 days to get the additional 9,511 signatures they need. Those signatures are due on Aug. 2.
Husted’s office announced the status of the ballot initiatives Monday.
Backers of both initiatives aggressively gathered signatures for months before the early July filing deadline and felt confident they had enough.
The Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation amendment, backed by a bipartisan coalition of community, law enforcement and business leaders, would require all fourth- and fifth-degree felony offenses for obtaining, possessing or using drugs or drug paraphernalia to be reclassified as no worse than first-degree misdemeanors.
The maximum punishment would be 180 days in jail and $1,000 fine, though first and second offenses within a two-year period could only be punished with probation, not jail time.
Additionally, the reclassifications would be retroactive, so people currently in prison for possession-only offenses could be released. The proposal also would prohibit prison sentences for probation rule infractions that are not new crimes.
Virtually any amendment can get on the ballot in Ohio — if it has the money and organizational chops behind it to muster up enough support. State law says ballot proposals must have signatures equaling at least 10 percent of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election, hence the 305,591 figure.