On April 5th, the Government Oversight Committee passed SB204 regarding the repeal of mandatory driver's license suspension for drug offenses. The bill introduced by Senator Seitz is scheduled for a vote by the full Senate and is expected to pass and go on the Ohio house for a vote by the State Representative. Below is Ohio Patient Network's Testimony at the hearing.
Chairman Coley, Vice Chairman Seitz, Ranking Member Yuko, Senators Balderson, Brown, Burke, Jordan, LaRose, Obhof, Patton, Peterson, and Skindell. Two years ago I came to Columbus speaking on behalf of Ohio NORML, the state chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, in support of Senate Concurrent Resolution 27 proposed by Senators Eklund, Skindell and Seitz. Today I am no longer associated with Ohio NORML and serve as the President of the oldest medical marihuana organization here in Ohio, Ohio Patient Network.
Current Ohio drug laws, even those concerning minor marihuana or paraphernalia offenses, mandate that “the court shall suspend for not less than six months or more than five years the offender's driver's or commercial driver's license”. These laws have their origin in a Federal 1991 legislation called the Solomon-Lautenberg amendment (See Editorial in Attachment 1). It required States to impose a mandatory six-month driver’s license suspension for drug offenses, or face loss of federal highway funds. States were allowed to pass legislation opting out of this law with no loss of highway funds.
I undertook a survey of other States’ laws concerning marihuana and driver’s license suspension and found that the majority of states do not even have these laws. They opted out, please see my map (Attachment 2) included in my testimony packet. A further examination of the states that still have these types of laws on the books reveals that Ohio has one of the toughest laws; driver’s license suspension can be up to five years in Ohio. Laws like these are a detriment to Ohio’s economy.
People without a driver’s license are likely to either lose a job or not able to obtain one. Criminal justice experts agree that employment is critical to a person’s success, but it is also important to our own state’s economic success.
I am a cancer survivor, who used marijuana during my many months of chemo therapy. Luckily, I personally have not been affected by this law, but many Ohioans have been.
I have two letters (Attachment 3) from Michael Revercomb and Heather Fitzgerald who live here in Columbus but were unable to attend today’s hearing. Both Heather’s and Michael’s lives have been deeply affected by the loss of their driver’s licenses due to a minor misdemeanor marihuana offense. Attached are short statements of Michael’s & Heather’s personal experiences. Note these letters are from when SCR 27 was being discussed.
My concerns on the proposed language are basically focused on the change from SHALL SUSPEND to MAY SUSPEND. I will be frank. If an offense has nothing to do with driving, our laws should not take a driver’s license away. On a separate page (Attachment 4), I suggest a change to the bill’s language. I urge you to support my proposed change and this important legislation not because you support or oppose marihuana reform, but because you care about Ohio’s economy.
Senator Seitz, thank you for proposing this important compliment to SB 337 the Collateral Sanctions Bill.
Ohio Patient Network
The Full Testimony with attachments is available via this link.