Toledo Blade

A new poll shows that a large number of Ohio voters favor a ballot initiative that emphasizes treatment, rather than prison, for first- and second-time drug offenders, the Toledo Blade reported Oct. 29.

Issue 1, a state constitutional amendment on the November ballot, would ease current drug laws by sending first- and second-time offenders into treatment programs instead of jail.

According to the poll of 602 voters in Ohio, 46 percent of those surveyed support treatment, while 26 percent said those with drug addictions are best served in jail. The remainder was undecided. Ed Orlett, Ohio state director of the Campaign for New Drug Policies, said the state could save as much as $21 million a year if Issue 1 passes.

"That cost of treatment is paid for out of the savings from sending fewer people to jail," Orlett said. Opponents of the measure argue that it is redundant and costly. James Ruvolo, a political strategist hired by those opposing the measure, said other polls show that most people are against the proposal because of its cost.

The amendment would require the state to allocate $247 million to a "substance-abuse treatment fund" over the next six years.

"This amendment is not needed. It is expensive, it duplicates what already exists, and it simply gives drug users a constitutional right, ahead of any other person who needs addiction services, the right to move to the front of the line," said Ruvolo. "The average person receiving treatment ends up in more than one program, and their costs are much higher than the proponents are stating." The poll also found that those under age 30 were more likely to favor diversion programs than jail. On the other hand, those over age 65 were
divided on the issue, with 35 percent supporting treatment and 34 percent favoring jail.