Gallia faces challenges with court ruling on cocaine

By Dean Wright -

OHIO VALLEY — As the Ohio State Supreme Court has ruled in State v. Gonzales that the state must now prove the purity of mixtures which may contain cocaine, this provides a new set of challenges for southeast Ohio justice officials in drug dominated areas.

Because the Ohio Revised Code does not define cocaine to include a mixture, the Ohio Supreme Court has deemed prosecution must now prove the exact amount of cocaine in a substance regardless of what might be considered filler or “cut” within criminal justice procedures.

“I’ve spoken with prosecutors from big and small counties to determine how we’re going to get a handle on this,” said Holdren. “We will give dealers our top priority in prosecution as we negotiate our resources and move forward.”

According to Gallia County Prosecutor Jason Holdren, when law enforcement discovers a substance which may potentially contain cocaine, it is sent to either the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation Chemistry Division or the Ohio State Highway Patrol Crime Lab. Both are considered the primary state-funded labs used in the prosecution of drug cases. Neither lab at this point in time is capable of performing “purity testing.” The amount of drug involved in a criminal case often determines its felony level as well as sentencing standards.

Holdren said,”The (Ohio Supreme Court) noted that the statutory language criminalizing possession of cocaine unambiguously requires the state to prove the amount ‘of cocaine’ involved.”

The prosecutor noted that legislation surrounding the abuse of methamphetamine and marijuana have the mixture legalese included in law and would not be affected by the State V. Gonzales case ruling.

With purity testing currently not existing at state laboratories in Ohio, law enforcement may need to send for testing out of state or hire experts to take the stand in court. Holdren said that could potentially cost thousands of dollars out of local budgets per case. Money that could otherwise be put towards other investigations will be caught in proving cocaine purity.

Holdren urged citizens to contact state legislators to amend the definition of the cocaine and drug possession statute to include mixtures of cocaine and filler materials to “make certain offenders will meet justice.”

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright