Trumbull Co. senator works to punish drug traffickers while helping users

Local News

CHAMPION TWP., Ohio (WKBN) – Ohio lawmakers are making an effort to update the state’s drug sentencing laws but not everyone agrees with the potential changes.

“I’m confident that what we will do is going to be purposeful. It’s going to be effective,” said Sen. John Eklund (R – 18th District).

Eklund and Sen. Sean O’Brien (D – 32nd District) are co-sponsors of SB 3, a bill they introduced in February.

“Our goal is to punish the traffickers, but yet help those who are drug dependent,” O’Brien said.

The bill would change what defines possession and trafficking, lowering some penalties and stiffening others.

“Under the bill, trafficking could be established strictly by possession of a certain amount of a drug. That is to say, no need to demonstrate that a drug was sold, that it was packaged,” Eklund said.

In an effort to get some feedback, O’Brien and Eklund met with judges, prosecutors, probation officers and defense attorneys — those on the front lines of the drug epidemic in the criminal justice system.

“It is tremendously refreshing to sit down with these two senators and know that they are really listening to what we have to say,” said defense attorney Jeff Goodman.

“I’m still on the fence about it, but it brings up the conversation. It finally gets it to the forefront of this conversation, what we need to do to confront this drug crisis,” said Girard Municipal Court Judge Jeffrey Adler.

Mahoning County Common Pleas Court Judge John Durkin said there are parts of the legislation that some have concerns about and others they agree with, but the biggest benefit is expanding treatment.

“Creating a piece of legislation that’s going to expand treatment for those who don’t have it but not impact the specialized dockets that exist are a critical piece.”

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