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Ohio General Assembly Considering Pair of Heroin-Related Bills

June 3, 2015 | Written by Dan Margolis

It appears that Ohio legislators are considering both an open hand and closed fist when it comes to dealing with heroin addiction in the state. An article in the Cincinnati Enquirer details two efforts to change the law.

People in Ohio are likely aware that lawmakers in Kentucky has passed a Good Samaritan law in an effort to prevent deaths by drug overdose. A similar bill failed in the previous session of the Ohio General Assembly, but this year a bipartisan pair of legislators is hoping that views have evolved among their colleagues.

The Good Samaritan bill would exempt people from drug charges if he or she calls 911 when a friend overdoses. Supporters say that many people are reluctant to call for help in that situation because they fear arrest. As a result, the overdosing person does not receive prompt medical attention.

With heroin use a big problem in Ohio and Kentucky, the latter state has already taken action to encourage people to call 911. Now, say reps Denise Driehaus and Robert Sprague, it is time to bring the same exemption to Ohio.

However, the exemption would not apply to anyone in possession of more than one gram of heroin, on the presumption that holding that much makes an individual a drug dealer. Another lawmaker has suggested adding a provision that would require Good Samaritans to enter treatment for drug addiction.

Meanwhile, a bill that recently passed the House Judiciary Committee would greatly expand the number of suspects facing a mandatory 11-year prison sentence. Currently, a conviction for possession of between 50 and 2,500 doses of heroin is punishable by three to 11 years in prison. Any more than that leads to an automatic 11-years sentence, regardless of the facts of the particular case.

The bill would reduce the upper limit for the lesser possession crime to 1,000 doses, a 60 percent drop. That would be roughly the same penalties currently in place for possession of cocaine.

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