Vote ‘no’ Tuesday on Issue 1

In many ways, the most important decision Ohioans will make in the election Tuesday has nothing to do with candidates for public office. It will be whether to declare defeat in the war against substance abuse.

A proposed amendment to the state constitution, Issue 1, is on the ballot. Its official title, “To reduce penalties for crimes of obtaining, possessing and using illegal drugs,” is all thoughtful voters ought to need to know about it.

If adopted, Issue 1 would virtually eliminate penalties for those caught in possession of illicit drugs ranging from marijuana to heroin. Judges’ hands would be tied: They would have to grant probation to anyone guilty of first or second offenses. Only if apprehended a third time would offenders risk any time in jail.

Though proponents insist those selling illegal substances would continue to face jail or prison time, the reality is different. Pushers cagey enough to limit quantities of drugs in their possession could escape incarceration.

Proponents of Issue 1 — in a campaign funded largely by rich out-of-state interests — insist it is intended to rehabilitate drug abusers instead of imprisoning them. That is utter and complete nonsense.

Many of those who take advantage of drug court programs for rehabilitation do so only because they see such compliance as a way to escape severe punishment. Eliminating that incentive could reduce the number of addicts seeking help.

And, by largely decriminalizing use of illicit substances, Issue 1 could result in a massive increase in the amount of them flowing into Ohio. Without as much fear of arrest, abusers would tend to be less restrained in buying controlled substances. In other words, the market would expand — and there are plenty of pushers eager to take advantage of that.

Election seasons are times when hyperbole runs rampant. Elect this candidate and life suddenly will be grand. Elect the opponent and the sky will come crashing down.

Most voters reject such grandiose claims. But on Ohio Issue 1, the danger is very real.

Buckeye State voters should vote “no” on Issue 1 — refusing to make a mistake that could have serious consequences.