Recent smears about Ohio’s ballot initiative Issue 1, whether encountered in the media or in the surrounding Athens community, can distort the true liberation and reformative power of Issue 1. Addressing these smears will rightfully challenge this misinformation and clarify the facts. One of the most popular smears circulating about Issue 1 right now is that, if Issue 1 is passed, possession of 19 grams of fentanyl – enough to kill thousands – would only be a misdemeanor. 

This is simply not true. State and federal prosecutors in Ohio have always charged people with large amounts of drugs, like fentanyl, with trafficking and not possession. Also, if Issue 1 is passed, the changes made by the Ohio legislature in June to fentanyl trafficking laws will remain. 

If passed, Issue 1 will effectively make all low-level drug possession felonies into misdemeanors, while simultaneously and retroactively releasing 10,000 people from prison and back to their families and communities. 

The passage of Issue 1 will reduce the probation-to-prison pipeline, and the money saved from decreasing incarcerations will go directly to rehabilitation programs, drug treatment and crime victims. Another smear being spread about Issue 1 is that if passed, more drug dealers will come to Ohio to traffic drugs.

Once again, Issue 1 applies to low-level drug possession and not drug trafficking. The passage of this issue will not change current trafficking laws, and drug traffickers will still be prosecuted with trafficking, not possession. In fact, according to a study led by researchers at the University of California, California’s Proposition 47, which reclassified low-level drug possession felonies into misdemeanors, effectively caused felony drug arrest rates to decline as well as racial disparities among these arrests. People with drug dependency deserve rehabilitation, not incarceration. Vote yes on Issue 1.

Hope McAtee is a senior studying acting at Ohio University.