Ohioans generally agree too many people are dying of overdoses, there isn't enough capacity to treat the addicted, and too many Ohioans are in prison. But Issue 1, which will appear on the ballot Nov. 6, sharply divides Ohioans over how to address the drug problem.

The initiative, which gained 730,000 signatures to get on the ballot, shows Ohioans' frustration with an opioid crisis that claimed 4,854 lives last year and shows no signs of abating.

It also is the product of many years of efforts to stem the growth in the incarceration rate — which has increased dramatically in recent years. Last year, 2,738, or 14.7 percent of prison admissions, were for drug drug possession — more than for any other offense, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

“It’s the confluence of mass incarceration and the addiction crisis that Ohio faces, of which opioids are the latest iteration,” said Stephen Johnsongrove of the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, who is part of the Yes on Issue 1 campaign. “That number continues to climb and all we get from the criminal justice system status quo is, ‘Let’s do more of the status quo.’”

Opponents, however, say that if it passes, Issue 1 will take vital tools from judges to fight addiction and crime more generally.

“I think the constitutional amendment will be like putting cement shoes on the treatment and the court system and recovery abilities. We will not be nimble," said Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor. “I am truly concerned that people will die.”

Issue 1 seeks to reduce the prison population by:

• Making possession or buying drugs punishable by no more than a misdemeanor.

• Making convictions of the first three such crimes in a 24-month period punishable by no more than probation.

• Prohibiting sending those on probation to prison for non-violent violations.

• Allowing people in prison for crimes other than murder, rape or child molestation to reduce their sentences by up to 25 percent by participating in rehabilitation and education programs.

Issue 1 supporters say it would free enough prisoners to save $100 million a year from the system's $1.3 billion annual budget — a projected savings that opponents dispute. Of that savings, proponents say, 70 percent would be used to increase drug-treatment capacity in the state, 15 percent would go to assistance for crime victims and 15 percent would help the court system adapt to the changes mandated under the amendment.

Among Issue 1's supporters are the American Civil Liberties Union, the Ohio Education Association and the Ohio Safe and Healthy Communities Campaign. The effort is funded with $2 million from charities supported by Facebook founders Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz. However, Johnsongrove said, those charities had no input in writing the issue.

“This was built by Ohioans for Ohioans from the get-go," he said. "The people that invested had zero input on the language.”

Among the initiative's opponents are the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association, Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, the Ohio Council of County Officials, and O'Connor, who has been traveling the state to speak against Issue 1.

The proposal has become a hot-button issue this political season. The Republican gubernatorial candidate, Attorney General Mike DeWine, has been hammering his opponent, Richard Cordray, over the Democrat's support for Issue 1. DeWine contends that Cordray's backing amounts to keeping drug dealers on the street — a claim fact-checking organization Politifact found as "false."

Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, said Issue 1 would not take away the ability to charge people with drug dealing, but would complicate the way in which police and prosecutors do their jobs.

"Regardless of the amount, you can always charge possession or trafficking as long as the events are there," he said.

But he added that under current law, undercover officers can develop cases, police can get search warrants, and they can charge petty dealers with felony possession and work their way up the chain of distribution. Under Issue 1, the undercover officer would have to reveal his or her identity at the first step to testify against the petty dealer if he or she is to be charged with a felony, Tobin said.

Cordray and treasurer candidate Rob Richardson are the only statewide Democratic candidates to endorse Issue 1. Tuesday, Democratic attorney general candidate Steve Dettelbach came out against the measure.

Cordray calls Issue 1 “far from perfect” but said, “I think we need a different approach on the opioid crisis. And the right principles here are more community treatment and less investment in our prisons ... Issue 1 is one approach. I’ve supported it because I’ve been frustrated with the legislature. It’s had years to address this issue and has not done it.”

A common objection to Issue 1, however, is that it would bring about change by amending the Ohio Constitution.

Johnsongrove said the amendment would provide "guardrails" and lawmakers could enact legislation to fix problems that Issue 1 might cause. However, O'Connor insisted that the only way to address difficulties with a constitutional amendment is with another amendment — an unwieldy process that requires either legislative approval or circulating a petition, getting ballot language approved and convincing voters to to support it in another election.

Dispatch reporters Randy Ludlow and Jim Siegel contributed to this story.