“We’re trying to crack down on the individuals participating in the influx of these drugs,” Swearingen said.
The bill would increase the penalties and change the quantities required to be considered illegal trafficking for cocaine, fentanyl-related products, heroin, and meth.
“If individuals aren’t going to be deterred at all, they’re at least going to suffer the consequences of committing those crimes,” Swearingen said. “But, hopefully over the long run, we show these individuals that are participating in narcotic trafficking, human trafficking, that Ohio is not a place where you want to do that.”
But some still cannot get behind the bill, and call it “short-term, ineffective thinking.” Gary Daniels is the chief lobbyist for the ACLU of Ohio and said increasing penalties won’t solve the drug problem.
“We’re very alarmed that a bill that looks like it comes straight out of the 1980s and 1990s — height of the war on drugs is here in Ohio — in 2023,” Daniels said.
Daniels said one of his biggest concerns with the bill is the impact it might have on the state’s prison system, saying that building and operating new prisons across Ohio would cost the state billions of dollars.
“The bill is designed to pack Ohio’s already overcrowded prison system that has been overcrowded for decades,” he said. “Without any real discussion about how many prisons are going to need to be built, how soon and how much this is going to cost Ohio taxpayers, and where we’re going to find the money.”
“They assume that prisons are overcrowded as they are,” Swearingen said. “I think they need to support those with statistics. I think we have a very good basis for doing what we’re trying to do by going after the individuals trafficking.”
Daniels said he thinks better solutions to the drug problem would be improving everyone’s quality of life in the state and expanding treatment.
“Expanding treatment, effective treatment here in Ohio,” Daniels said. “It might not solve the problem, but will improve things.”
Swearingen agreed these are two important things to do, but he points to the state budget for the past several years that has prioritized helping people with addiction, or the most recent one that cuts taxes.
In August, Gov. Mike DeWine announced $90 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds aimed at strengthening mental health and addiction crisis services statewide.
“Despite all of those things, we continue to see fentanyl, other drugs and trafficking in our communities,” Swearingen said.
Daniels is not convinced any solution will come from this legislation.
“There will always be at least one more drug trafficker to take the place of one that is thrown into prison,” Daniels said. “The number two reason a person lands in an Ohio prison is because of drug trafficking. And this is just something we’ve seen does not work here in Ohio.”
“House Bill 230 will give our law enforcement more tools, our prosecutors more tools to make life more difficult for these individuals that are trafficking narcotics,” Swearingen said.
Just over the past weekend, there was a fentanyl bust that took place in Butler County. Sheriffs seized three kilos of the drug.
“That’s enough fentanyl to kill roughly 1.5 million people, the populations of Columbus and Cincinnati combined,” Abrams said in a statement. “My bill, House Bill 230, is a direct legislative response to the heartbreaking reality that fentanyl is being trafficked into our state and taking the lives of Ohioans. I applaud (Butler County) Sheriff (Richard) Jones and his team for the work they are doing to combat the drug crisis here in Ohio and keep Ohioans safe.”
“I’d like to thank Sheriff Jones and his team for their hard work and dedication to keeping our communities safe,” Swearingen said. “It is critical that we continue to crack down on those bringing fentanyl into our communities that is killing Ohioans.”
House Bill 230 has its third committee hearing Wednesday morning.