Highland County Commissioners Gary Abernathy, Jeff Duncan and Terry Britton unanimously came out against passage of State Issue One at their regular Wednesday meeting.
“Issue One deals with relaxing some of the penalties concerning possession of drugs,” Duncan said. “Judge McKenna and Judge Coss are in the process of putting together some bullet points as to why this bill is bad for both the state and our county.”
Duncan further stated that if the bill passes, it will be an additional burden on counties that would in turn have to find ways to fund it.
The commissioners provided The Times-Gazette with a news release from Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, where she says “if issue one passes, Ohio may have some of the most lenient drug crime laws in the nation.”
The release states that according to the Ohio Department of Health, in 2016 alone, nearly 60 percent of overdose deaths involved fentanyl, a dramatic rise from the 4 per cent found in 2013.
The reason given for the huge increase is that fentanyl is 50 times more potent that heroin.
O’Connor goes on to say that “issue one would make the possession of powdered fentanyl in amounts less than 20 grams a misdemeanor with only probation as the penalty.”
According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the amount of powdered fentanyl needed to kill the average person would barely cover Lincoln’s beard on a penny.
O’ Connor said in the news release, “with only probation as the consequence, a drug offender caught with less than 20 grams walks away with no possibility of jail time.”
“It’s very soft on drugs,” Duncan said. “Possessing 20 grams or less would be considered a misdemeanor… Well, 20 grams of that stuff is enough to kill 10,000 people.”
Duncan’s math lines up with Drug Enforcement Administration figures that state a lethal dose of the drug is just two milligrams, which is two one-thousandths of a gram.
O’Connor’s news release went on to say that if issue one were passed, “another constitutional amendment would be necessary to repeal or modify it, which would require another statewide election.”
She also indicated that special interest groups from outside Ohio have spent more than $4 million to place the issue on the November ballot.
“We can expect to see Judge Coss’ and Judge McKenna’s report in the next few weeks, at least before the election,” Britton added.
In other matters before the commissioners, the annual assessments on sewer rates will remain unchanged for the Rolling Acres Subdivision on Mad River Road and Lakeside near Paint Creek.
All three commissioners attended the farm tour last Saturday, sponsored by the Ohio Farm Bureau and the Highland County Soil and Water Conservation District.
“I’d like to compliment them and all the farms on the tour,” Abernathy said. “We stopped at three farms and learned a lot about what goes on, and it really helps you appreciate agriculture and the importance of it.”
Britton said the annual farm event, now in it’s fifth year, highlights agriculture, which is Highland County’s largest industry.
“It gives the community a way of seeing new things, maybe things they could use on their farms,” he said, “and it gives them an opportunity to take a look at other operations.”
On Tuesday, Duncan and Britton attended the Farm Science Review held in London under the auspices of the Ohio State University.
“They had a very nice program for the officials and Extension people,” Britton said. “It was a very informative luncheon meeting and we learned a few things.”
One contract that was on commissioner’s desks and requiring signatures was for the Highland County Sheriff Office’s annual Justice Assistance Grant, which totals nearly $7,000. The contract gives commissioners the authority to sign grant-required papers in the program.
According to the JAG website, the program is the leading source of federal justice funding to state and local jurisdictions like the sheriff’s office. It provides critical funding necessary to support a wide range of programs including law enforcement, crime prevention and education, drug treatment and enforcement, technology improvement, crime victim and witness initiatives and related law enforcement programs.
There were four resolutions before commissioners Wednesday, with three being line item requests for transfer of funds for county agencies, and one authorizing Highland County Emergency Management Agency Director David Bushelman to be named grant agent of the county mitigation grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Speaking as both a spectator and a team participant, Duncan urged everyone to make plans to attend this year’s Smokin’ in the Hills event at Rocky Fork Lake.
“Smokin in the Hills is coming up this weekend,” Duncan said, “and we encourage everyone to get out there because there’s a lot going on for the kids and the family.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571