Mike DeWine seemingly insisted on a radio talk-show on Monday that a person with 1,000 pounds of the deadly opioid fentanyl would only be charged with a misdemeanor if Issue 1 passes on Nov. 6.

Ohio's attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate made the statement in answering a hypothetical question from 700 WLW radio host Bill Cunningham in Cincinnati about the ballot issue, which would convert low-level drug possession and use felonies into misdemeanors carrying no prison time.

The proposed constitutional amendment changes neither drug trafficking laws or penalties nor affects the ability of police and prosecutors to file separate felony trafficking charges.

In the official argument against Issue 1, opponents do not claim that drug dealers would only face misdemeanor charges carrying probation and treatment.

Here's the exchange between DeWine and Cunningham (which occurs at roughly the 2-minute mark of the online recording of the Bill Cunningham Show):

Cunningham: "So, if somebody from Mexico, much less Bucyrus, comes into our country, and comes into the state of Ohio, and is in possession of a thousand pounds of fentanyl and carfentanil, which is used to anesthetize elephants, and they’re caught with a thousand pounds of fentanyl ..."

DeWine: "Misdemeanor."

Cunningham: "First-time offense."

DeWine: "First time, misdemeanor, no jail. Could not — the judge could not give that person a jail sentence."

Cunningham: "How is that possible?"

DeWine: "The second time, the second time they get caught, again, misdemeanor, no jail. The third time they get caught, it’s only the third time for possessing these drugs, it’s only the third time that they can get jail. And it’s still a misdemeanor. So it is just outrageous."

Cunningham: "Mike, that can’t be true."

DeWine: It is what is … an unlimited amount of drugs you can have in your possession. When it's advertised as a small amount of drugs, that is not what we are talking about ... We are talking about people who have huge amounts of drugs, they're drug dealers."

Asked about the candidate's comments, DeWine campaign spokesman Joshua Eck wrote in an email: "The attorney general was referring to fact that under Issue 1, someone can possess enough fentanyl to kill 10,000 people, which he had just talked about. I haven’t played the interview back, but if so, they were simply talking about it differently."

Dennis Willard, spokesman for the Yes on Issue 1 campaign, said of DeWine's remarks: "It's not true. Anyone charged with drug trafficking today — somebody with 1,000 pounds of fentanyl — will be charged with drug trafficking after Issue 1 passes, as well. Mike DeWine has forgotten it is police officers and prosecutors who bring the charges ... the amount doesn't matter."

DeWine and the groups representing Ohio judges and prosecutors, among others, object to Issue 1 as disastrous amid the fight against the opioid epidemic in a move that would embolden drug users who would face no prison time until a third offense within two years.

The DeWine campaign also is airing TV commercials attacking Democrat gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray over his support of Issue 1 and falsely stating he wants to keep drug dealers on the street.

rludlow@dispatch.com

@RandyLudlow