Bill to increase penalties for drug and human trafficking introduced to Ohio Senate

Stronger penalties for drug trafficking related to fentanyl and a new mandate to educate high school students about the risks associated with fentanyl are now awaiting approval from the Ohio Senate.

House Bill 322, passed by the House with a resounding 80-13 vote, is a direct response to the pressing issues of drug and human trafficking. Rep. Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, who sponsors the bill, highlights the urgent need to address these concerns.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 3,624 Ohioans and 57,380 Americans have lost their lives to fentanyl poisoning since the bill was introduced in late June, as reported by Abrams.

According to Abrams, the current crisis in our state and country is of a catastrophic nature. He believes that House Bill 230 is the solution Ohio needs to effectively address the drug and human trafficking epidemics, ultimately saving lives.

The bill aims to accomplish the following objectives:

  • The charges for drug trafficking involving cocaine, fentanyl-related compounds, heroin, and methamphetamine are being increased.
  • The definition of human trafficking is expanded.
  • If someone is found guilty of or admits to causing a death related to fentanyl, they will be sentenced to a minimum of five years in prison.
  • August has been designated as “Fentanyl Poisoning Awareness Month.”
  • Public schools must provide instruction to students about the hazards associated with fentanyl.
  • Law enforcement is granted the authority to perform oral fluid testing.

The ACLU of Ohio expressed its opposition to the bill, arguing that tougher penalties for drug trafficking would not effectively address the drug crisis and would ultimately burden taxpayers by increasing the prison population.

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“In his testimony, Gary Daniels, the chief lobbyist for the ACLU-Ohio, pointed out that HB230 enhances trafficking penalties significantly across its 114 pages. He highlighted that felony levels are consistently elevated beyond existing laws, ranging from one to three levels, depending on the type of substance and its weight. This surge in penalties is expected to exacerbate the issue of prison overcrowding, considering the current rate at which drug traffickers are being incarcerated. It is evident that the primary intention behind HB230 is to further burden our already overwhelmed prison system.”

According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, the bill is projected to increase the state’s prison population by a minimum of 1,300 to 1,500 individuals. This could potentially lead to a significant financial burden on taxpayers, with costs reaching into the tens of millions of dollars.

According to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, it costs an average of $103.08 per day or over $37,000 per year to house an inmate at their facilities.

The House recently passed a second Abrams bill that enables prosecutors to seek criminal penalties against individuals who fail to report possible child abuse and those who exhibit a consistent pattern of inappropriate conduct towards minors.

The bill is now making its way to the Senate.

“We all share the responsibility of safeguarding Ohio’s children, and House Bill 322 provides us with the means to fulfill that duty,” affirmed Abrams. “It is our duty to recognize when something is amiss and to advocate for the well-being of our children and the security of our communities.”

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