Activist group seeks to amend Ohio Constitution

A new activist group on campus, the Case Western Reserve University Opioid Task Force (OTF), recently began a project to collect signatures for a petition regarding low-level drug offenses in the state of Ohio.

The OTF currently includes about 20 student members and works in collaboration with members of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative (OOC), a group which oversees dialogue on similar issues throughout the Greater Cleveland area. The OTF, however, focuses specifically on the effects of drug offenses in the context of the CWRU community.

The organization, established by students Tarun Jella, Neha Sharma and Tori Hamilton, was created with the intention of collecting signatures for a petition in favor of the Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Amendment, a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution.

The purpose of the amendment is to decrease the number of Ohio prisoners as a result of low-level drug offenses. The bill places special emphasis on rehabilitation and education instead of jail time as punishment for certain drug offenses.

According to Dallas Eckman, community coordinator for the OTF, the group owes its success to the wide range of people affected by the issue.

“The social realities of the opioid epidemic are truly universally felt,” he said. “In such different ways, folks can so often connect personal experiences to the amendment’s goals. What strikes me is how from a public health standpoint, to a mass incarceration standpoint, to a racial justice perspective, the intersections of this amendment really engage the empathy of people from all backgrounds in meaningful ways.”

The OTF is seeking approximately 1,000 signatures for the petition in favor of the the Neighborhood Safety, Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Amendment, and has already received more than 200 signatures since the group began signature collections on March 5. The group is confident that they can surpass their goal of 1,000 signatures before their deadline of April 30.

Our initiative primarily focuses on the CWRU community,” Eckman said. “As such, we’re looking inward to mainly pull as many signatures and register as many voters as we can from our immediate community.”

Anyone who wishes to become involved with the OTF should email the organization to learn more and receive updates on the group’s progress and current initiatives.