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I Plan to Vote YES on Ohio Issue 1

vote yes on ohio issue 1

Letter submitted to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News on October 28, 2018

Dear Editor,

Local law enforcement, judges, and politicians have all come out against Issue 1 — the state ballot initiative that would reduce many drug crimes to misdemeanors and favor treatment over incarceration. The goal is to end the destructive warehousing of addicts in county and state prisons.

The main objection seems to be that if Issue 1 passes, drug users, knowing they will not face jail if arrested, will use opioids and other addictive drugs with impunity. If these people can’t be threatened by the powers that be with jail time, the thinking goes, they will have no reason to stop using drugs. Isn’t this already what is happening?

The costly, ineffective “war on drugs” has been fought most of my adult life — without success. Perhaps it is time to admit arresting and incarcerating non-violent drug offenders has not stemmed the tide of abuse. Instead, this war has left ruined lives in its wake. If the goal is to help addicts become productive members of society, we must move to treatment-first methodology. Issue 1 moves Ohio in that direction.

I spent several years in the 1970s volunteering at a drug rehabilitation facility. As a pastor, I came in contact with countless people who had substance abuse issues. In my dealings with these hurting people, I can’t think of one instance where incarceration (the stick) was preferable to treatment (the carrot).

The prison industrial complex opposes Issue 1 because it will cost them money. I would think it would be desirable and good for our society if we drastically reduced county and state prison populations and expenditures. The money saved could then be used to provide rehabilitative services, including drug treatment. It is shameful that the United States has the highest per capita incarceration rates in the world; that we put a premium on retribution and punishment instead of making people whole. The number one reason people ending up in prison? Drugs.

What I’ve noticed in current local discussions about Issue 1, and past discussions about medical marijuana and the opioid crisis, is the unwillingness by many to truly see and empathize with the people materially affected by these things. Why is this?

I propose we use the Bible parable of The Good Samaritan as our example of how to treat drug addicts. Love, compassion, a helping hand, and material support is what is needed, not punitive jail sentences.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

Text of Issue 1



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    Bob Felton

    I agree. We need to treat addiction as a medical problem, not a sin or character failure. And we need to recognize that the American war on drugs has contributed mightily to destabilizing our southern neighbors’ governments, with the result that their citizens are fleeing their homelands to come here.

    A sane drug policy is the beginning of solving multiple problems.

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    I couldn’t agree more. I support things like clean needle exchanges, and people go “stop encouraging them!” Uh…pretty sure the definition of addiction is the “encouraging” part is already taken care of. You gotta keep them alive if they are ever going to get clean. Heck, I’ve talked to people that are against medication assisted therapy for opioid addiction. I support that too but it’s interesting that, in a lot of cases, pharmaceutical companies got people hooked and then they provide the solution in suboxone and other medications. It’s funny, politicians had little problem with doctors handing out strong narcotics like fentanyl, dilaudid, oxycodone, etc., which are highly addictive but the second marijuana was mentioned it’s “bad.” Yup, a non-addictive, natural substance was “bad.” No one has died of a marijuana overdose. What’s the count on opiates? I really believe this has everything to do with drug companies. Should look at Portugal, they had wild success in helping addicts and lowering crime rates by decriminalizing drugs.

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    I read an article a couple of years ago about a country in Europe, I believe it was Netherlands, having success by decriminalizing drug use and setting up treatment centers instead. But in the US we have too many citizens who want to criminalize and punish behaviors they consider sins instead of offering helpful solutions to issues.

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    I can answer your questions for you Bruce, but if you think about it for a moment, you already know the answers:

    (1) No substance that gets people high should ever be allowed legally. Why? It is wrong to get high on beverage alcohol or any other drug because everyone is supposed to get their highs solely from Jesus—and Jesus alone alone. The JESUS HIGH was the only allowed high. If beer or Oxycontin gives you a high and you cannot quit using it, then it has become your false god who is substituting for the place in your life that rightly belongs to Jesus alone—the One, True and Only God. So you see Bruce, drugs are NOT first and foremost an addiction and treatment issue. Drugs and addiction are not about sickness and treatment. The real issue is that drugs are substitutes for God, and God plainly says in the Bible that “Thou shalt not have any other Gods before me.” This is why the fundie God hates licit and illicit drugs just as much as he hates United Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians.

    (2) Why do we imprison nonviolent drug users? That one is easy. Making a drug more important than God is an extreme offense against one of the 10 Commandments. An offense so extreme requires extreme punishment. “Vengeance is mine saith the Lord—I shall repay every person who puts Pabst Blue Ribbon before me.”

    Now Bruce. Neither you nor I think like No. 1 and No. 2, but Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals by the tens of millions do think exactly that way. Fundie zealots have always seen addiction as a moral issue that slaps God in the face with the quick pop of a wet gymnasium towel. Even after medical science discovered that addiction is a brain disease that actually changes the interior electrical wiring of the brain, which renders treatment anywhere from difficult to impossible, conservative church members have continued to think of it as a moral offense against “Gawd’s Laws” rather than a disease that needs treatment—especially here in the American South.

    When I was growing up in the American South in the 1950s and 1960s, there were crimes like murder, aggravated rape, and bank robbery. However, that was just small, everyday, routine, run-of-the-mill stuff. The most horrifying crimes were:

    (A) Getting your teenage girlfriend pregnant

    (B) Drinking alcoholic beverages.

    (C) Bootlegging whisky.

    You could get fried in the electric chair three, four, five, and six different times—-in just one sitting—for doing any of those three. As my Uncle Charles said to me about a year before he died from old age: “Back in those days, getting a girl pregnant was just about the awfullest thing any young male could possibly ever do.” Kill her. No problem. Ball peen hammer murders were popular in the 1950s. A daughter would tell dad that she was pregnant. Dad would tip-toe into her bedroom at night, pull back the covers slightly, and give little Jeniffer’s head a good, strong whack with the round end of the hammer. The next day UPI and AP would have articles in every newspaper in the country: “Illinois Dad Dispatches Daughter with Ball Peen Hammer.

    I still recall how the old country folks in the American South talked about drinking alcoholic beverages. They were extremely proud that not a single drop had ever passed by their own lips. Anyone who was known to drink or get drunk was automatically the foulest cockroach that ever lived. Today, we would just say Bill is an alcoholic,” or “Bill gets drunk a bit often.” The Old folks in the American South would say:

    “Look at that a comin’ up the road. It’s that lowdown, nasty, stinking, Godforsaken drunk Bill Jones.” The kind and loving treatment Otis Campbell gets on “The Andy Griffith Show” is pure mythology. The old southern church people hated drunks with an almost perfect hatred.

    Never mind that Bill had just contributed $10,000 to charity, used Listerine, took long soaky baths, and used the best male perfumes from Paris. Just one sip of whisky made poor old Bill the worst human being who had ever lived—pond scum in the eyes of good southern church people—and most people were church people.

    Then there was bootlegging whisky. American cinema has romanced this subject into nonreality. When I was growing up in the American South, bootlegging whisky was an extremely shameful thing to do. It was on the same level as a father fucking his daughter. The guy that owned the Red Ace gasoline station down the street from my house got pulled over by a policemen right in front of my Aunt Delia’s house. I was playing on her porch at the time. A few neighbors had heard the cop’s siren blast and had come down and gathered around to watch. This guy was well thought of in the community, and he was driving his early 1950s Plymouth. The cop told him to get out of the car, and he stumbled out drunk as a skunk, staggering, and barely able to stand. Bystanders were shocked!!! Then the cop asked him to open the trunk of his car. Well, he staggered to the back of the car, opened it, and it was chocked full to bursting with just bought cases of whisky, vodka, gin, etc. I gasped—even as a child!!! I suspect the adult bystanders let out a communal gasp at all the full bottles in his trunk. I remember the guy’s face. He was a white guy, but his skin turned a bright ruby red with embarrassment.

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    The demise of the pnishment paradigm cannot and will not happen with politicians: The need to harm self and others is too much ingrained, too ‘normal’ in society. All that is possible is to advocate, to resist and most importantly, bring your children up in caring love and remove all punishment. They will learn that they are respected and valued as free beings and not as obedient sheep to be Trumped and herded.
    Parenting without Punishment is an excellent, free .pdf written by Norm Lee, an American teacher and in my view, a visionary. It is nigh on impossible for people who have come out of the Christian IFB gulag to even conceive of a family that does not practice punishment but there are people all over the country who know that it can be done. It is likely that the children of these families will be in forefront of the demise of the punishment paradigm. Just as it was once fine and dandy to slap your children around and then became frowned on and illegal in some places, a time will come when the punishment paradigm is simply an embarassment from the past, a sickness overcome like slavery was…. Old fogies like me will not be around for that day but I can see it out there, the seed setting. Even Bruce Gerencser, control-freak, has seen the crack in his armor where the light gets in. (Thank-you, Bruce, for advocating against the punishment paradigm! When you say that the for-protit prison folk will lose money if Issue 1 passes, you mean that to express their endless greed, I guess, because there is nowhere in the entire world with a more successful, bursting at the seams profit-prison system than in the USA. And if Issue 1 passes, then the loss might be one penny on the dollar but probably less, I’d hazard.)

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Bruce Gerencser