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An Overdue Drug Law Reform – Driver's License Suspension

When it comes to Ohio's marihuana policy, almost everyone left, right, or center agree on one drug war law reform that is long overdue in Ohio: driver's license suspension. Decades ago, Ohio accepted a 1992 federal mandate requiring a mandatory six-month license suspension for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana possession. This provision was authored by New Jersey's liberal Senator Frank Lautenberg, trying to prove that he was just as tough on the War on Drugs as conservatives.

Lautenberg's highway transportation funding cuts were to be tied to state compliance with the federal mandate. There was considerable disagreement concerning this law by numerous states' representatives, particularly from western states. As a compromise, an "OPT OUT" clause was added, which permitted the states to maintain their federal highway funds. The clause required state legislators to pass a resolution of their opposition to the Federal mandate and the governor to send the resolution to the Secretary of Transportation. Most states did exactly that. Today the majority of states do not suspend driver's license for drug offenses like pot possession. But Ohio still follows that 90's federal mandate and has one of the toughest laws in the country. Someone convicted of a minor misdemeanor simple pot possession in Ohio results in a minimum 6 months suspension; but can potentially result in having their license suspended for up to 5 years.

Ohio political leaders have stepped up to correct this overdue and sensible marihuana law reform. Ohio House & Senate legislators have passed resolutions HCR55 & SCR27 to "OPT OUT" of the federal mandate.

Ohio NORML is not alone in supporting ending Ohio's adherence to the federal mandate. The Judicial Conference of Ohio Judges does not support driver license suspensions for drug offenses. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators – the national trade group for Department of Motor Vehicles, of which Ohio is a member supports ending mandatory drivers' license suspensions for pot possession. In an 80-page report, the AAMVA summarizes how the research shows conclusively that suspensions not related to driving waste government resources, harm traffic safety and undermine goals such as getting child support paid.

A driver's license is critical to getting or keeping a job. National studies have shown that 42% of people lose their jobs when their license is suspended. Sometimes a judge will make an exception and permit the offender to drive to work and back home. But that does not cover going to the hardware store or the mall. Currently according to Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles records there are over one hundred forty five thousand Ohioans with license suspensions due to drug offenses. Overall the federal mandated sanctions have an unintended and negative impact on Ohio's economy and jobs.

A secondary problem comes up when some of these people drive anyway. They either have a good reason or worse do it out of disrespect for a law that had no connection to their driving. This creates an even larger problem of people driving with a suspended license. Our courts have become clogged with driving under suspension cases; and also make an even deeper legal hole for someone to climb out of.

Governor Kasich is sending the resolution to the Secretary of Department of Transportation in Washington. Then next year our state legislature is free to revise state law, removing the suspension language without losing any Federal Highway funds. Finally some common sense is being shown in this endless War on Drugs which really should be called Prohibition 2.0.

Rob Ryan, is President of Ohio NORML, the Ohio chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana laws and a retired GE aerospace engineer.

New York Times Calls end of Marijuana Prohibition

The New York Times editorial board has caught up to the public and is now calling for the end of marijuana prohibition. I urge you to please to read the NY TIMES editorials on their website in entirety and leave a message with your opinion.  Ohio is an important element just look at the map!  Ohio has had numerous medical marijuana bills introduced as well as full legalization legislation without any traction, as well as three medical marijuana ballot initiatives started. Now is the time for leaders in Columbus to step up and act!   

It is way past time to end this "war" on our own citizens and reverse prohibition policy that criminalizes and cripples so many of Ohioans. On the map Ohio may be colored a "DECRIM STATE," but in reality it is a decriminalized state with plenty of sharp teeth.  

These teeth range from scaring people who are seriously ill to continue to suffer or afraid to talk to their doctors, students losing educational benefits, filling our jails beyond their capacity due to failing a drug test that drives Ohio's high recidivism rate, secret tools for "The New Jim Crow" for racism to hide behind, encouraging people to leave the state with their children who have an epileptic like seizures condition called Dravets, corrupting our youth to become drug dealers to make a fast buck, breaking up of families by removing a child from their mother because of a hospital drug test, hunters being denied legal access to rifles, veterans and pain patients being dropped from receiving medical care, and finally even taking away a person's driver's license for having a joint.   

Marijuana, Cannabis, Ganja, Pot, Weed, Marihuana, Hemp…… whatever you want to call it needs to be RE-legalized! We must deal with reality rather than falsehoods and worn out propaganda.  We need to deal with it rationally and push past the lies propagated by the new REEFER MADNESS any longer!  It is time for Ohioans, be they marijuana consumers or not to act and reform Ohio's marijuana laws.

Ohio does not need to be last to recognize the truth, marijuana should be made legal once again. Let's put our rusty factories to work and be part of a green growing economy; whether it is for using hemp as a source for a whole variety of industrial uses; to making medications for our sick; or providing a safer alternative to alcohol.

Below is a composite image and links to the Sunday July 26th 2014 New York Times edition.  There are two other article, the second article in the Times is an opinion about Letting the states decide, the third is about the change in public opinion.

1-Repeal Prohibition, Again By THE New York Times Editiorial Board
2-Let States Decide on Marijuana
3-The Public Lightens Up About Weed

4-The Federal Marijuana Ban Is Rooted in Myth and Xenophobia

5-What Science Says About Marijuana




Two Party System : Failure to Govern and Represent the Majority

Our Declaration of Independence says that all men (and women) are created equal and the Equal Protection clause in the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution attempts to support that goal. However election laws as written in Ohio are completely contrary to those ideals.

An example is that a prospective independent state legislative candidate in Cincinnati’s District 28 ( Madeira to Greenhills area ) is required by Ohio law to get almost 10 times the number of petition signatures as a Democratic or Republican candidate to be qualified for the ballot. 

Laws like that have been challenged using the equal protection argument (14th amendment) and have been rejected by judges. The rationale for their decisions are that the state has an overriding interest in maintaining the two party system for political stability.

As evidenced by Congress's recent inability to keep the government running, the two party system is not stable and has failed the public. Congress has not passed a budget for years without resorting to a "Continuing Resolution" band aid and now they have shutdown the government.

Another example here in Ohio is the fact that it takes almost 3 times as many voters to elect a Democratic congressional representative as it takes to elect a Republican.  This is a direct effect of gerrymandering the legislative districts to artificially create a political advantage.

Furthermore the two dominant parties (R+D) have written laws to protect themselves by imposing legal restrictions on a person running for office. Anyone who for example voted for a third party in a primary is barred for years to run as a Republican or Democratic.

These examples demonstrate how the current system helps the extreme ends of our political spectrum get elected and keep us divided. They certainly do not promote political stability and harmony.

The two party system clearly needs improvement.   The courts rationale for maintaining the two party system is flawed.   A simple every day analogy is that of a two legged stool that can sway back and forth versus a three legged stool which is stable and practical.

It is time to stabilize our government and broaden political opportunity by removing these "legal" restrictions. A political legal landscape that encourages more than two parties would have the potential of actually representing the majority of citizens who are in the middle rather than continuing today's system of bi-polar politics.

Robert Ryan
Blue Ash


Ohio State Govt

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