Lawmakers look to change mandates for minor drug offenses

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) — Federal laws require anyone who gets a drug offense to lose their license. Ohio lawmakers are now trying to join a majority of the states by opposing federal mandates.

The mandate went into law nearly 25 years ago and its goal was to curb drug use, but now lawmakers have said that times have changed.

With current minor drug offenses, offenders receive a misdemeanor for having a small amount of marijuana, go to court, then lose their drivers’ license for six months. The hook here is that offenders will lose their license no matter where the drug offense happens.

“There are prosecutors who say, ‘Your honor, I know this makes no sense logically, no sense rationally,’ but we are required to ask for it, and as a judge we are required to do it,” said Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge John Durkin.

It is part of a federal mandate that has been on the books since 1990. The goal was to curb drug use. Thirty-four states have already gone against the mandate. Ohio is hoping to be the next state to join that list.

“You don’t want a first time offender to lose their drivers license over a minor misdemeanor dealing with a drug offense,” said Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman.

Leaders have said they are in support of license suspension if the drug offense is related to driving.

“If someone is convicted of an OVI offense, there’s good reason for someone to have their license be suspended,” Durkin said.

The resolution passed through the Senate and the House will vote on it Tuesday morning. If approved, Governor John Kasich will be urged to send his opposition to the federal government.

The Policy and Legislative oversight is the committee hearing the resolution on Tuesday, which includes Valley Representative Ron Gerberry, who is ranking minority leader.

Comments are closed.