This November, Ohio voters have the chance to change the way the state addresses the relationship between drug offenses and the criminal justice system. And in the midst of an overcrowded prison system and a statewide opioid crisis, it is clear that changes must be made.

The Post Editorial Board recognizes that need for change and endorses Issue 1, which would amend the Ohio Constitution to reduce criminal penalties for obtaining, possessing and using illegal drugs while redirecting funds saved from the reduced number of incarcerations to rehabilitation and addiction treatment. 

If Issue 1 passes, it will effectively change low-level drug possession felony charges into misdemeanors, which would have a palpable impact on our state’s probation-to-prison pipeline, turning the focus instead to rehabilitation.  

This issue is not one that can be taken lightly. And while we do express our support, we also understand the vehement opposition to amending the state’s constitution and lessening penalties.

Some believe that the best way to address addiction is to place harsher penalties on those who violate drug laws. Others may argue that loosening these laws would give leniency to violent drug offenders. However, fear-mongering rhetoric of “cartels in our neighborhoods” will only distract us from the rehabilitation efforts necessary to placing Ohioans on the path toward recovery. 

Addiction is complex. It cannot simply be solved with lengthy prison sentences and felony charges that will follow a person for the rest of their life, jeopardizing chances for future employment. 

We must realize that addiction is a health-care issue rather than a criminal one. Those experiencing addiction suffer tremendous consequences that are only compounded through years of incarceration. 

For years, our reporters have chronicled Ohioans’ battles with opioid addiction. It’s not something that’s easy to talk about. Often times, it may seem like the easier option to turn to the criminal justice system to solve uncomfortable problems. But we know this doesn’t work. 

It’s no secret that the prison systems in Ohio face overcrowding. Even in our own backyards, facilities have taken the step towards a rehabilitation facility to solve the opioid crisis. The Hocking Correctional Unit, for example, is undergoing renovations to turn the building into a treatment facility that will help combat drug addiction

It’s time we turn away from the system that tears families apart, stymies progress and places punishment above rehabilitation. Issue 1 may not be perfect, but it’s a step we need to take to change the way we address addiction.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Post's executive editors: Editor-in-Chief Lauren Fisher, Digital Managing Editor Alex McCann, Assistant Managing Editor Jessica Hill and Creative Director Abby Gordon. Managing Editor Maddie Capron did not participate in these endorsements due to her reporting role during elections. Post editorials are independent of the publication's news coverage and do not represent the newsroom at-large.

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