Ohio lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 9 on January 11th that would make big changes to the State’s medical marijuana program. So far, the Senate General Government Committee has held three hearings on the matter. The next hearing is Tuesday, March 14, 2023, where the legislators will be hearing from proponents, opponents, and the interested parties of Senate Bill 9.
What Would Senate Bill 9 Do?
Among the many changes, this bill would expand the types of medical conditions that are eligible for treatment with medical marijuana, allow licensed dispensaries to display products in advertisements and inside the dispensary, expand the approved forms of medical marijuana to include suppositories, oral pouches, oral strips, and inhalers, increase the permissible THC content of extracts to 90%, and creates a database for out-of-state medical marijuana patients to legally purchase in Ohio (Ohio Legislative Service Commission, 2023).
Taking place during the General Government Committee meeting, S.B. 9 is listed as the first hearing on the schedule. The General Government Committee meeting starts at 3:00 PM in the Grant Hearing Room at the Ohio Statehouse. This is where anyone who wants to provide oral testimony in support or opposition of S.B. 9 can do so. If you want to provide testimony but do not wish to speak publicly, you may also submit written testimony prior to the hearing.
Additionally, this hearing is also an opportunity to be a seat-filler (someone who shows public interest by simply sitting in the room). You also have the choice to sit at home and watch live via ohiochannel.org.
How Does Someone Provide Testimony?
To provide testimony, you need to submit 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.
“First Name, Last Name
City, State Zip Code
10-digit Phone Number
Chairman Rulli, Vice Chair Schuring, Ranking Member DeMora, and members of the General Government Committee. Thank you for allowing my proponent/opponent/interested party testimony today for Senate Bill 9 of the 135th General Assembly, which would revise the current medical marijuana law in Ohio.”
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/oppose 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 topic. Make sure to cite any sources you use for your argument, as well as any quotes or information that is not your own.
Read the Bill Language
To help build your argument, read the bill language first. If there is a summary and analysis available, that will make it easier to digest. Any language that has a line through it is what they are eliminating. Any language that is underlined is what they are adding to the bill. You can find a link to both the official bill language and a summary and analysis at the end of this article. Knowing what is in the bill will make is a lot easier to write your testimony.
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.
“I urge you to support/vote against Senate Bill 9 on behalf of all Ohio patients. Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter. I will now take any questions you may have.”
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 should be able to be read in about 3-5 minutes.
You will be given a time limit to make your oral statement and you want to be able to take questions at the end without going over your allotted time. The time limit is roughly determined by the time allotted for the hearing, divided by the amount of testimonies being presented. It is common to only have three or five minutes to give your testimony and answer questions from the committee members. It is best to err on the side of caution and make your testimony as short and concise as possible.
You will send your written statement to the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the committee, along with a filled-out Witness Information Form. Send a filled-out Witness Information Form regardless of whether you choose to orally present your testimony or not. Senator Schuring is not only the Primary Sponsor of this bill, but he also serves as the Vice Chairman of the Senate General Government Committee. Send your written testimony for S.B. 9 to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to fill in the “Subject” line and indicate in your email whether or not you are presenting your testimony orally.
Subject: Testimony for SB 9
My name is (Your Name) and I am submitting my Proponent/Opponent/Interested Party testimony and witness form for Senate Bill 9 for the March 14, 2023 General Government Committee Meeting.
I wish to only provide written testimony/present my testimony orally. You can find the testimony and witness form attached to this email.
I am happy to answer any questions you may have.
(Your First and Last Name)”
About 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 will 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 full of historical floor tiles, so wear shoes you can walk well in and that provides good traction. Public restrooms are available, but it 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 Ohio 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.
Reminder: whether or not you choose to provide testimony, you are still welcome to sit in the designated room for the hearing and watch the legislative process. You will also have the option to watch from home on the website ohiochannel.org.
You have a right to be there. The legislators want to hear from the people 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.
Committee schedule. (2023). The Ohio Senate.
Ohio Legislative Service Commission. (2023). Senate bill no. 9 analysis. The Ohio Senate.