I write this to encourage everyone I know to vote no on Issue 1 this fall. Every time I read Issue One, I find another problem it will create for our state. There are more problems than I could write about in a short article, but it is vital for the safety of our community that we vote down this issue.
Issue 1 will Essentially Decriminalize Drug Use
Issue 1 will reclassify most drug crimes as misdemeanors. They can be convicted unlimited times without it ever becoming a felony. It also says that they can essentially ignore probation without risking even jail time. In other words, drug criminals would be able to continue criminal acts without consequence.
In addition, the language of Issue 1 specifically allows those convicted of crimes to ignore probation. They can use drugs. They do not have to attend counseling. In fact, they can even stop reporting to their probation officer with no consequence.
Drug Possession is often the only way to prosecute drug traffickers. Again, many drug dealers are caught with significant quantities in excess of “bulk” amounts. They are obviously going to traffic the drugs, but the police caught them before they did so. Many of these are pled as possession cases even though they are really traffickers. Under Issue 1, these traffickers will be treated the same as low level drug possession offenders. To make matters worse, Issue 1 will allow convicted criminals who are already in prison to have their felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors. They would then be immediately RELEASED back into unsuspecting communities, including Crawford County.
Here is one example of how ridiculous our drug laws would be if Issue 1 passes. A 20 year old is holding 49 doses of fentanyl in one hand, and an open beer in the other. If Issue 1 passes, he could get 6 months in jail for the beer, but could only get toothless probation for the fentanyl. Fentanyl is killing thousands. Even skin contact has caused innocent bystanders to overdose. This is a huge problem in our state. Our criminal law should treat it as serious.
The State estimates that 10,000 criminals in prison for drug crimes will be released if Issue 1 passes. If Issue 1 passes, drug dealers will be immediately released in the community, knowing there are little consequences left if they continue to commit crimes. Look at the counties most overrun by drugs dealers and the associated crimes. Now imagine every county in the state looking at least that bad. That is what Issue 1 will create.
Non-Violent Drug Crime is a Lie
It angers me every time I hear someone ignorantly talk about “non-violent drug crimes.” Some people don’t know or are willfully blind to all the other crimes that are part of the drug trade. Most of the thefts are to supply a drug habit. The person stealing a loaf of bread to feed a family is largely a myth, or at least an odd case that would be of note. A theft for drugs is the normal reason people are stealing.
People breaking into homes are doing so because of drugs. Most of our serious violent crimes are caused by drug use. The reason violent crime has been cut by more than half in the last three years is because Crawford County is the wrong place to do Drugs. Issue 1 wants to put those people back into the community all at once, to terrorize the community again.
Since children may read this, I will simply include that the things that are done to women caught in drug use and dealing are unspeakable. This is the normal situation for women who are hooked on drugs, not the exception. Those who claim drug dealers are “non-violent” are also ignoring human trafficking as “non-violent drug crime.” These things are done to your daughters and your sisters, your friends and your family. Non-violent drug crime… Nonsense. Don’t buy the lie.
There are many more problems with Issue 1. The savings are imaginary. Your communities will face more crime and more violence if it passes. The courts will be stripped of most of their power to remove the worst actors form our community. Vote NO on Issue 1 this November.
Michael Bear is a staff attorney for the Crawford County Municipal Court