An Ohio legislator introduced a bill last week to address the issue of legal medical cannabis users stopped by police while operating a vehicle. Changes to the law would increase the THC threshold for intoxication, making charging legal cannabis users with an OVI (Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence) more difficult.
What is Senate Bill 26?
Senator Manning introduced S.B. 26 on January 23, 2023. The aim of this bill is “to change the laws pertaining to operating a vehicle or watercraft while under the influence of marihuana and the admissibility of evidence for purposes of OVI statutes”. S.B. 26 would amend previously standing laws to redefine what it means to be under the influence of marijuana and what rights you have to contest the charges.
Currently, the law states that in order to be found driving under the influence of marijuana, you must be found having 10 nanograms of THC per milliliter in the urine, or a blood concentration of at least 2 nanograms of THC per milliliter in the person’s whole blood or blood plasma. The bill proposed by Senator Manning would increase those limits to 25 nanograms of THC per milliliter in the urine or a blood concentration of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter in the person’s whole blood or blood plasma.
How Would SB 26 Benefit MMJ Patients?
Senate Bill 26 would benefit the medical marijuana community of Ohio. Some patients need to use marijuana multiple times a day, putting them at risk with our current OVI laws. The amount of medical marijuana some patients use would put them beyond the current threshold for driving under the influence, even if they did not use medical marijuana in the last 24 hours. Increasing the concentration limits for urine and blood would stop unnecessary bias against Ohio’s medical marijuana patients.
Worried about police encounters in Ohio as a medical marijuana patient? This advice from a NORML board attorney we interviewed in 2021 may be insightful.
What Can YOU Do to Help?
When it comes to creating change, the more people participating, the better. Start by reading the bill to figure out if it seems to align with your core beliefs. From there, you can reach out to your legislator(s) and let them know you want them to support the bill (or not).
Registered voters have the biggest impact on legislation. Collectively, we have a strong voice that can move mountains. The more of us that participate in the legislative process, the more legislation will reflect the people’s wants and needs.
Before reaching out to any legislator, make sure you are a registered voter. If you are not sure, you can look up your voter registration status on the Secretary of State’s website. If you are not registered, there is a link on the website to allow you to register online. Your voter registration information will tell you what district you are in. Once you know you are registered to vote and know your district, it is time to find your legislator(s). If you are not willing or able to register to vote, that is okay. You can still contact your legislators and have your voice heard.
How to Locate Legislators
To locate your legislators, go to https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/ and use the “Who Represents Me?” tool on the home page. Click on their link to reveal their profile. Once you are on their profile page, click on “Contact” to find their contact information. If you need their email address and one is not provided, address your email to the senator’s last name followed by @ohiosenate.gov (example: firstname.lastname@example.org); each House email address begins with the letters REP, followed by the number of the House district that the member represents, and then @ohiohouse.gov (example: Rep13@ohiohouse.gov).
How to Call or Write Your Legislator(s)
So you have looked up your voter registration and found the legislator(s) you will be contacting. Now, you need to decide how you will contact them. You will need to decide if you are going to call, write a letter, or write an email. Whatever you choose is fine, but keep in mind that a handwritten letter goes a long way.
If you choose to call a legislator, you might only get a hold of their voicemail or their legislative aide. The legislators are constantly busy and rarely answer their own phones. Leave a message either on the machine or with their legislative aide. The message will be passed on to the legislator.
Writing a letter or email can go through a similar process. It is far more likely that the legislative aide will be reading it and then providing the information to the legislator. This is why a handwritten letter leaves a bigger impression. The effort to handwrite a letter is typically appreciated and the aides and legislators will spend more time reading and researching your message.
Executing your Delivery
Once you have decided on your method of delivery, now is the time to execute. If you are making a phone call, make sure to introduce yourself with your name, the fact that you are a registered voter, and the district you are registered in. Once you have introduced yourself, you just need to ask the legislator to support or not support the bill. For example, “Hello, my name is Mary Smith and I am a registered voter in the 26th District. I am calling to ask Representative John Doe to support Senate Bill 26”. It is as simple as that. Always end the conversation/voicemail by thanking them for their time and providing contact information so that they can reach out to you if they need clarification.
If you are writing an email or a letter, make sure to use a formal format. You will want to address the letter to the legislator. Instead of saying “Dear John Doe”, start the letter with “Dear Representative John Doe” or “Dear Senator John Doe”. Always address them by their formal title to show respect. Start your letter by stating your name, voter status, and the district you reside in.
Then follow that with a succinct statement of which bill you want them to support. For example, “My name is Mary Smith and I am a registered voter in the 26th District. I am writing to ask you to support Senate Bill 26”. Once you have let them know why you are reaching out, you can provide reasons as to why you want them to support this bill. It can be a personal story or a logical point. Regardless, make sure you do not write too much; keep it short and sweet. Always end the email or letter by thanking them for their time and include your contact information in case they have any questions.
Feel free to use the links provided below to help you learn more about Senate Bill 26 and how to contact your legislator.
Links and Reference Tools
Read Senate Bill 26
Check Your Voter Status and Find Your Legislators
Example Letter to a Legislator
Manning, N. H. (2023, January 23). Senate bill no. 26. The Ohio Senate. Retrieved January 28, 2023, from https://search-prod.lis.state.oh.us/solarapi/v1/general_assembly_135/bills/sb26/IN/00/sb26_00_IN?format=pdf
Senator Nathan H. Manning. (2023). The Ohio Senate. https://ohiosenate.gov/members/nathan-h-manning/biography