Thought leaders will come together at Ohio State’s Drinko Hall to help confront the issue on Friday. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

The opioid crisis has been shaking the country, with the Midwest in the epicenter. Thought leaders will come together at Ohio State’s Drinko Hall to confront the issue on Friday.

The annual Moritz College of Law all-day symposium will focus on the opioid crisis. The symposium, titled “Facing Opioids: Drug Enforcement and Health Policies in Today’s Epidemic,” is hosted by the Ohio State Law Journal.

“The Ohio State Law Journal for years has held an annual symposium where we pick a hot topic in legal academia and try to invite a bunch of professors, practitioners, interested individuals in the community who have something valuable to contribute to the ideas we are trying to discuss,” said Steven Darnell, a third-year law student and the symposium editor of the Law Journal.

The Ohio State Law Journal editors, a group of students who edit and create a compilation of legal articles written by legal scholars, chose the topic of the symposium because of its national importance and particular prevalence in the Midwest, Darnell said.

“There’s so much going on around [the opioid crisis] in Ohio and in the country,” Darnell said. “It’s at the forefront of politics today and constantly being mentioned on campaign trails.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Ohio is currently among the top five states with the highest opioid-related overdose deaths.

“I think sometimes we still get in the mindset that we can solve this issue simply by locking up drug dealers or those we stereotype as drug dealers,” said David Roper, editor-in-chief of the Law Journal and a third-year law student. “I just hope that the symposium encourages folks to think about the lessons that we’ve learned along the way in terms of the failures of drug enforcement policy.”

The symposium aims for an interdisciplinary approach and will feature a variety of professionals ranging from “public health experts to criminal justice scholars and observers of relevant civil litigation,” according to the Law Journal’s event webpage.

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor will be the keynote speaker.

“Her contributions to the judiciary, her vast experience both in politics and in law offer a lot to us,” Darnell said. “We actually invited her before she came out against Issue 1.”

O’Connor spoke at the Ohio Union on Oct. 11 and urged Ohio voters to vote down Issue 1, which if passed, would reduce low-level drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, aim to reduce the amount of people in state prison and increase the amount of spending for drug rehabilitation treatment for offenders.

“We’re trying to expand the scope of the conversation and include a lot of different professionals and practitioners to get a comprehensive approach to the conversation,” Roper said.

Other panelists and speakers will provide different ideas for solutions to the opioid epidemic. Moritz College of Law professor Doug Berman will be breaking down the cost of the war on drugs in his panel.

“I’ve been studying the criminal justice system for decades and now, and a huge part, but not, in my view, a fully analyzed part of the broader criminal justice conversation is the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ and the way in which that’s operationalized,” Berman said.

Berman also will look to the potential benefits of passing Issue 1.

“Ohio rarely is at the front of any kind of reform movement,” Berman said. “I think if Issue 1 passes, it could be a marker of the changing politics on these issues in a way that I think will really continue to fuel reform efforts.”

The symposium will be held in the Saxbe Auditorium in Drinko Hall and begin Friday morning with check-in at 8:30 a.m. and will last until 4:30 p.m. The symposium is free and open for anyone to attend, guests can register here.