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Voters to be asked to downgrade non-violent drug crimes

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COLUMBUS — A proposal to force the state to reduce penalties for non-violent drug crimes to no more than a misdemeanor and put any savings experienced from fewer prisoners into drug treatment is headed for the Nov. 6 ballot.

But another would-be ballot issue to etch into the Ohio Constitution regulations governing outpatient kidney dialysis centers failed to garner enough signatures on first pass and now faces a 10-day deadline to patch the holes in its petitions, according to the secretary of state’s office.

If approved by voters, the would-be Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment, and Rehabilitation amendment would grant credit toward completion of prison inmates’ sentences if they participate in rehabilitation, education, or work programs while behind bars.

Future offenses for using drugs or possessing related paraphernalia could be classified no higher than first-degree misdemeanors, and people previously convicted of such crimes could petition the courts to have their crimes downgraded accordingly.

The provisions would not apply to cases involving serious drug trafficking charges currently classified as first, second, or third-degree felonies.

The proposed Kidney Dialysis Patient Protection Amendment, like one expected to be on California’s ballot this year, would restrict the centers’ profits and increase state regulation of the centers. Backers of the amendment argue that it provides necessary regulations to what is a highly profitable industry while opponents contend the centers are already heavily regulated.

Backers of the drug treatment amendment submitted 351,095 valid signatures of registered voters, clearing the required threshold of 305,591.

But after a review of signatures by county boards of elections, it was determined that the dialysis amendment submitted just 296,080 valid signatures. Backers have until Aug. 2 to gather and submit enough signatures to fill the gap to qualify for the ballot.

Contact Jim Provance at jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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