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Published: Thursday, 10/3/2002

Signs touting Issue 1 make debut in Toledo

BY JAMES DREW
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

Billboards heralding State Issue 1 are up in Toledo, the first of seven cities where an image of a young man behind prison bars with the message “treatment, not jail, for nonviolent drug users” will attempt to sway voters.

As of yesterday, six yellow-and-black billboards were on view in Toledo, with two more to follow, said Brian Usher, a spokesman for the pro-Issue 1 group, the Ohio Campaign for New Drug Policies.

The campaign will feature 44 billboards, including 12 in Cleveland, and 10 each in Columbus and Cincinnati. Billboards also will be used in Dayton, Youngstown, and Akron.

Issue 1 would amend Ohio's Constitution to make treatment an option for any nonviolent first and second-time drug offenders. Drug traffickers, violent offenders, or those operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs would not be eligible.

Also yesterday, U.S. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, a Cleveland Democrat and former Cuyahoga County prosecutor, endorsed Issue 1.

“I am frustrated that the legislature has failed to allocate money for treatment for those in need of treatment,” she said in a statement. “Therefore, I have chosen to support this ballot initiative. I feel strongly that this is the only method by which these citizens will be able to receive treatment on demand.”

But Asa Hutchinson, administrator of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, said Issue 1 backers are spreading myths that U.S. anti-drug efforts are not working and that Ohio prisons are jammed with nonviolent offenders convicted of possessing small amounts of drugs.

“It's just not the case. If you're a possessor of a small amount of drugs or a user, you have to work pretty doggone hard to get to prison. The prisons are filled with traffickers and violent offenders that we ought to be targeting,” he said at a law-enforcement conference.



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