Senate District 13
Nathan H. Manning
Drug Sentencing Reform Bill Focused on Supporting Ohioans Struggling with Addiction
March 7, 2019

COLUMBUS—On Wednesday, State Senator Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) joined Senate Judiciary Chair John Eklund (R-Munson Township) and Senator Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) to outline Substitute Senate Bill 3, bipartisan legislation that would reform criminal sentencing laws to provide better paths to treatment for Ohioans suffering from drug addiction while ensuring drug traffickers face strict felony charges.

Substitute Senate Bill 3 updates Ohio’s possession, sealing, and trafficking laws while building on other major criminal justice reforms the Senate has passed over the last several years to enable individuals to find support, purpose and opportunities as they fight to beat the cycle of addiction.

“I commend Senators Eklund and O'Brien for their work on these much needed reforms. This bill emphasizes rehabilitation and moves non-violent drug offenders into treatment instead of incarcerating them in state prisons,” said Manning, Vice Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “This approach will offer many people a second chance. Equally important, it will reduce recidivism rates—meaning our communities will be safer."

Specifically, the bill would make possession of small amounts of drugs an unclassified misdemeanor charge with a presumption of treatment, but subject to a maximum one-year jail sentence if the court deems the offender a threat to others. Fentanyl and sexual assault-enabling drugs would be excluded from the reclassification, and the individual may face a felony possession charge if he or she has been convicted of two possession offenses within three years.

“What we are trying to accomplish is to ‘arrest’ the problem and get Ohioans who are struggling with addiction help before their offenses could mean jail time,” said Eklund. “We want people to get better and move on to lead productive lives, while also ensuring that traffickers are arrested and stay behind bars.”

By reforming record sealing procedures, this bill seeks to remove the “scarlet letter” of prior possession convictions so that a recovering offender faces fewer obstacles to finding gainful employment and housing as the individual works toward an addiction-free life.

The proposed legislation would permit misdemeanor possessions, as well as F4 and F5 drug possessions, to be sealed upon the offender’s successful completion of drug court or intervention in lieu of conviction programs. 

Finally, drug trafficking penalties are strengthened under Substitute Senate Bill 3. If the prosecution proves an individual had any intent to sell or distribute any amount of heroin, that person could face trafficking charges and convictions. The bill also maintains mandatory prison sentencing for high-level trafficking offenses.

This legislation builds on major reforms passed by the Senate in recent years by focusing on the rehabilitation of Ohioans suffering from drug addiction, providing flexibility to local courts, and reducing recidivism and prison time for low-level, non-violent offenders who make up the fastest growing portion of the state’s prison population due to the drug epidemic. 

Watch the full press conference here.

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