MedicateOH previously reported on Ohio Senate Bill 26, which would increase the legal limit for driving under the influence of cannabis (marijuana). This Wednesday, February 22 there will be a Proponent hearing for S.B. 26. Here’s some background and how to prepare to participate:
What Does S.B. 26 Do?
Senator Nathan H. Manning introduced S.B. 26 on January 23, 2023. This bill aims “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.
This Wednesday, February 22, 2023, there will be a Proponent hearing for S.B. 26. This hearing is taking place during the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting and is listed as the second hearing on the schedule. The Judiciary Committee meeting starts at 9:30 am in the North Hearing Room at the Ohio Statehouse. This is where anyone who wants to provide oral testimony in support of the passing of S.B. 26 can do so.
If you want to provide testimony but do not wish to do so publicly, you may also submit written testimony prior to the hearing. Additionally, it is also an opportunity to be a seat-filler (someone who shows public interest by simply sitting in the room) for anyone who is in support but does not necessarily feel comfortable providing testimony. You also have the choice to sit at home and watch live via ohiochannel.org.
Why Would Someone Support SB 26?
Senate Bill 26 would benefit the medical marijuana community of Ohio. Some patients must use marijuana multiple times daily, 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. This leaves the patient population vulnerable to being charged with an OVI for using medical marijuana, even if they were not under the influence when they were pulled over. Increasing the concentration limits for urine and blood would stop unnecessary bias against Ohio’s medical marijuana patients.
How Does Someone Provide Testimony?
To provide testimony, there needs to be a written statement. Your written statement will be sent to the Committee Chairman prior to the hearing. The committee members will have time to review all written testimony, whether it is presented orally or not.
Your written statement needs to follow a certain format. The top of the page should have your contact information, much like a formal letter. Your statement should begin with an introduction. The introduction is where you address the legislators and why you are speaking/writing today. It should look something like this:
“First Name, Last Name
City, State Zip Code
10-digit Phone Number
Chairman Manning, Vice Chair Reynolds, Ranking Member Hicks-Hudson, and members of the Judiciary Committee. Thank you for allowing my proponent testimony today for Senate Bill 26 of the 135th General Assembly, which would increase the legally defined limit of driving under the influence of marijuana.”
Once you have written your introduction statement, it is time to build the body of your testimony. Let them know who you are and how this topic affects you. The body should be a few paragraphs on why you support the bill and why the legislators should, too. This is where you share a personal connection to the bill and facts or statistics pertaining to the bill. Make sure to cite any sources you use for your argument, as well as any quotes or information that is not your own. The body is where you argue your stance on the matter.
After stating your argument, you will conclude your testimony with a concise statement on how you stand about the bill and which way you want your legislators to lean. All testimonies should end by thanking the committee for their time and offering to answer any questions they may have. The end of your testimony should look something like this:
“I urge you to support Senate Bill 26 for the safety and protection of all Ohio medical marijuana patients. Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter. I will now take any questions you may have.”
Additional Advocacy Tips
Make sure you are ready to answer any questions the legislators may have. Read up on your talking points and be ready for rebuttals. It is important to note that your statement needs to be able to be read in about 3-5 minutes. You will be given a time limit to make your statement and you want to be able to take questions at the end without going over your allotted time. It is best to err on the side of caution and make it as short and concise as possible.
You will send your written statement to the Chairman of the committee, along with a filled-out Witness Information Form. Senator Manning is not only the Primary Sponsor of this bill, but he also serves as the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The easiest way to send them your statement is via email. Send your written testimony for S.B. 26 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether or not you choose to provide oral testimony, you are still welcome to sit in the designated room for the hearing and watch the legislative process.
Getting to the Ohio Statehouse
The Ohio Statehouse is located at 1 Capitol Sq, Columbus, OH 43215. There is an underground parking garage underneath the Statehouse that is open to the public. You may also choose to park nearby the building at a metered spot. If neither is available and you are able to walk a couple of blocks, a great alternative is the parking garage for the Columbus Commons. The great thing about Columbus is there is always a parking lot, garage, or meter nearby.
When you enter the building, you will be going through a metal detector. Be prepared to remove your coat, empty your pockets, and place your belongings on a conveyer belt to be scanned for security purposes. Do not bring any weapons or marijuana into the building. You have the option to take the stairs or the designated elevators to your destination. You can always ask for directions to the room you are going to at the door and security can tell you how to get there.
Depending on the side of the building from which you enter, you may have to walk around the building to get to the hearing room. The building is equipped with historical floor tiles, so wear shoes you can walk in and that provides traction. Public restrooms are available. However, can sometimes be a trek to get to them. Buffer your time if you have mobility issues or if you know you will need to find a restroom when you get there. (You probably already do, but add a couple of minutes to your normal buffer time to be safe.)
What to Wear at the Statehouse
When you are trying to make an impression with legislators, you need to follow traditional business attire – business casual if you must. The more professional you present yourself, the more seriously you will be taken by the legislators. Show up dressed like you are going to work at the Statehouse, not just visit it. This means suits, dresses, nice shoes, etc. Make sure your hair is done and you are visibly clean and free of wrinkles.
Remember, you have a right to be there. The legislators want to hear from the voters of Ohio. They need us to show them information that they do not have time to research themselves. They also need to hear how these decisions impact real people. Take a deep breath and stand proud that you are using your voice to make a difference.
Reference: Manning, N. H. (2023, January 23). Senate bill no. 26. The Ohio Senate.