Drug dealing near treatment centers in Ohio could bring stiffer penalties

Dealing drugs outside addiction treatment centers would bring harsher penalties under a bill that won approval in the Ohio House on Wednesday.

Lawmakers voted 84-0 in favor of House Bill 296, which calls for stiffer penalties for drug trafficking offenses committed with 1,000 feet of a drug treatment center, including methadone clinics that dispense medication to people with opiate addictions.

State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, said people in treatment are vulnerable to relapse.

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“They are perfect prey for dealers….The drug dealers have a product that this population of people would do just about anything to get, so why shouldn’t they traffic the drugs into at the facility, set up camp in the parking lot or wait at the end of the street for guaranteed customers,” she said in written testimony. “The logic and economics are easy to understand.”

The bill, which now moves to the Ohio Senate for consideration, would bump up the penalty for trafficking outside treatment centers. For example, a fourth degree felony would become a third degree felony.

Ohio law already imposes tougher sanctions for certain drug offenses committed near a school or juvenile.

The ACLU of Ohio and Ohio Public Defender oppose the bill.

The House also voted 84-2 in favor of a bill that would allow for dispensing controlled substances in tamper evident packaging. State Rep. Tim Ginter, R-Salem, said that pilfering is a common means, especially for young drug users, to access opiates.

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