Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Ohio officials criticize drug-clinic promotion

By Spencer Hunt,
and Nathan Leaf,
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

        COLUMBUS — A ballot proposal that would put thousands of drug users in treatment programs instead of prisons is “just plain bad public policy,” Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery warned Tuesday.

        “The war on drugs is not being won right now,” Ms. Montgomery said. “But I can tell you this will certainly not win the war.”

        Promoters of the Ohio Drug Treatment Initiative said they would file today for a spot on the November ballot.

        Though election officials must first examine hundreds of thousands of petition signatures, a statewide campaign is well under way.

        The proposal would ask voters to change the Ohio Constitution to put eligible, nonviolent drug offenders into addiction treatment programs. It also would make the state spend $38 million a year for them.

        Supporters call treatment a better alternative to prisons or legalized drugs. Bolstered by election victories with similar proposals in Arizona and California they have high hopes to win not only Ohio, but Michigan and the District of Columbia.

        “Ohio's drug addiction problem is clearly an important unmet social need,” said Ed Orlett, director of the Ohio Drug Treatment Initiative campaign.

        Gov. Bob Taft, Ms. Montgomery and a statewide coalition of mayors, judges, prosecutors, police and drug treatment officials say the initiative will help decriminalize drugs, sabotage state drug courts, stop judges from punishing offenders who skip treatment and help other criminals escape justice when they apply for treatment as addicts.

        “This has the potential of disastrous consequences in the criminal justice system,” said Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen, who appeared in Columbus with three other prosecutors to support Ms. Montgomery.


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