Lake Co. lawmaker pushing to reverse impact of ruling on cocaine purity tests

Posted at 5:40 PM, Feb 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-20 18:10:58-05

A bill sponsored by a Lake County-area lawmaker to reverse a controversial Ohio Supreme Court decision on cocaine testing passed unanimously in the Ohio House last week. 

In a December ruling, the justices found that Ohio’s definition of cocaine does not include fillers like flour and baking soda for sentencing purposes. 

As a result, prosecutors must now prove the actual weight of cocaine when charging drug offenders — not the weight of added fillers that have become increasingly popular. 

House Bill 4, sponsored by Rep. John Rogers (D-60), would essentially reverse that decision, amending the legal definition for sentencing purposes to include a “compound, mixture, preparation, or substance containing cocaine.”  

The bill passed through the House unanimously on Feb. 15.

Proponents like Rogers argued that the new requirements would burden prosecutors, cost taxpayers and reduce the sentences for serious offenders. 

“It’s going to bog the system down,” Rogers explained. “It’s going to delay prosecution and it’s going to cost taxpayers money and people their lives.” 

Attorney General Mike DeWine estimated that the initial startup costs for full testing services at the BCI laboratories would be roughly $725,000, with a recurring annual cost of roughly $370,000. 

Rogers explained that the BCI labs are just one group of many labs that would have to pay to upgrade the tests.

H.B. 4 includes an emergency clause that would allow the law to go into effect immediately upon signing.