This bill aims to increase sentences for the possession and distribution of fentanyl, a synthetic opiate.
Currently, possession of less than 20 grams of fentanyl is a fifth degree felony. SB 1 would create more tiers: 1 gram to less than 5 grams would be a fourth degree felony, 5 to less than 10 grams a third degree felony, and 10 to less than 20 grams a second degree felony. The result of this is that both users and distributors would be punished more severely.
Further, any drug mixed with fentanyl would also be subject to this new scale, greatly increasing sentences for unrelated substances including cocaine, marijuana, and MDMA.
LCS Legislation Status
Our Take on This Bill
The ACLU of Ohio is opposed to SB 1, as it punishes drug addiction while failing to meaningfully effect the overall problem of fentanyl use, abuse, possession, and trafficking.
The direct result of SB 1 would be more people—low level addicts and large scale traffickers—in Ohio’s prisons for longer periods of time, significantly burdening the already overcapacity prison system in an unproductive way. The bill focuses on punishment and conviction instead of treatment and rehabilitation.
Perhaps most troubling is that the new tiered possession rules would apply to any drug mixed with fentanyl. Under SB 1, a lower level marijuana possession charge could easily rise to a major felony charge if even a small amount of fentanyl is mixed in.
Instead of bills like SB 1, the General Assembly should focus on developing a new framework and strategy for meaningfully addressing serious drug problems affecting Ohioans.
Introduced in the Senate on 1/31/17
Referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on 2/1/17
Received Committee hearings on 2/8/17, 2/14/17, 2/28/17, and 3/7/17, 3/14/17, and 3/22/17
Passed – Amended by the Senate on 3/29/17
Introduced in the House on 3/30/17
Referred to the House Criminal Justice Committee on 5/9/17
Received a Committee hearing on 9/12/17
Criminal Justice (H), Judiciary (S)