Ohio House Task Force on Medical Marijuana
Testimony of Mary Jane Borden, President of the Ohio Rights Group
March 31, 2016
Chairman Schuring, Task Force members and others present at this last hearing of the Ohio House Medical Marijuana Task Force, thank for allotting me the time to testify before you in favor of medical marijuana.
My name is Mary Jane Borden. You may recognize me as a long-time medical marijuana advocate in Ohio. I am a wife and a mother. I hold an undergraduate degree from Otterbein University, an MBA from the University of Dayton, and the prestigious Accredited in Public Relations certification from the Public Relations Society of America. I am a former Senior Marketing Analyst for a pharmaceutical company.
I’m also a patient with the same bone condition as Irv Rosenfeld, who receives 300 marijuana cigarettes each month from the federal government. Can you imagine what would happen to me if I walked into this chamber with this can filled with marijuana? I have to ask, why he and not me?
I serve as President of the Ohio Rights Group, which is a 501(c)(4) organization in Ohio that advocates for those who make medicinal use of marijuana. We’re the people who compose ballot initiatives – four of them so far. Our very first one has been transformed into a legislative bill and our most recent one, the proposed Ohio Cannabis Rights Amendment, holds signatures from roughly 150,000 registered Ohio voters, a strong statement by Ohioans that they should have the constitutional right to make medicinal use of this plant.
What is interesting is that three quarters of Ohioans agree as recently found in a public opinion poll conducted by the Marijuana Policy Project, a group also fielding an amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would enable Ohio’s sick, dying and disabled to use cannabis medicinally under a regulated system.
Some might suggest that the Constitution isn’t place for such policy or its regulations. I might have agreed, but after 16 years of working full time on cannabis policy in Ohio and witnessing the introduction of seven bills that went nowhere during that time frame, we saw little recourse other than fielding citizen initiated ballot initiatives. Last year, Responsible Ohio proved this point.
Many of you may have wondered why advocates go to such lengths to change cannabis law. Many opposed to cannabis have said just wait. There isn’t enough research. There’s too much we don’t know. I believe these hearings have proven that waiting is neither an option, nor desirable. Here’s why.
Every discipline defines itself by its “body of knowledge.” This term refers to, “A set of accepted and agreed upon standards and nomenclatures pertaining to a field or profession.” Think about the testimony you have heard during the last seven hearings. Dr. Sue Sisley, a principal investigator for FDA clinical trials. Pharmacist Dr. Michelle Price on the many cannabis patents. Tom Downey, a Colorado regulator, on licensing systems. You’ve learned about the endocannabinoid system, core to human physiology. CBD, THC, terpenes, whole plant, extraction, vaporization and seed-to-sale have become common phrases to you. Please allow me to offer a few more examples of the cannabis’ body of knowledge.
Go pubmed.gov, the website of the National Library of Medicine, and search on the word “cannabinoid.” You’ll find over 20,000 scientific studies. According to an article in the journal Pharmacological Reviews, cannabis-focused studies only grew at the rate of 100-200 per year until the new millennia. By 2004, the number was 5,900 and by 2010, 12,000. Don’t believe the naysayers who say there is no research.
Then there is data and plenty of it. The U.S. Government regularly compiles drug use data under the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The 2014 survey shows that 31 million Americans or 13% of the U.S. population have broken the law and used marijuana at least once last year. Nineteen million Americans or 8% of the population are monthly cannabis users. I submit that these individuals may be more than just users. Rather, the frequency of their use suggests that they may be patients.
Further, we can extrapolate these data to likely voters. This analysis shows that almost half of all U.S. voters reside in the 23 states where medical marijuana is now legal. It seems unlikely that they would support laws that would imprison them. Essentially, people don’t vote against their own self-interest. This being the case, a match of state-based marijuana use percentages to the number of actual voters calculates the “marijuana vote.” In Ohio, voters who used marijuana in the last year could number 650,000 or over 20% of the electorate in the 2014 general election. The medical marijuana vote – about 400,000 people who use marijuana monthly – could represent 10% of the vote. Whether these numbers are 100% accurate misses the point. It is often on narrow margins that elections are won. A candidate’s position on medical marijuana could influence whether he or she has a job in the next General Assembly. The polling I spoke of earlier reinforces this point.
What these examples demonstrate is cannabis now possesses a body of knowledge that makes it a discipline, and as a discipline like law, medicine and even public relations, it requires regulation.
But I did not become involved in this issue because of numbers. I was drawn to it because of human rights. I saw the suffering of the sick and the loss of life and liberty. I see our country torn apart by the injustice of senseless suffering and the needlessly punitive repercussions for possessing a simple plant.
The fact is that we all have an endemic bodily system based on chemicals in the cannabis plant. It is a shared system with all human beings. This means that cannabinoids are the ties that bind together all humanity. Blessed be those ties that bind …
Yet, despite this fundamental fact, people are being denied their inalienable rights of life, liberty, property, happiness and safety that are guaranteed by Article 1 of the Ohio Constitution. A positive test for cannabis could mean the loss of your job, your certifications, your student aid, your children, your housing, your assets and even your life – you could be ineligible for an organ transplant or kicked out of a chronic pain program. In fact, forcing people to take dangerous pharmaceutical drugs in lieu of a safe therapeutic plant could well be a human rights issue of itself.
Twenty-three U.S. states and the District of Columbia have now taken the logical and humanitarian steps to legalize medical marijuana. Just last month, a Canadian federal court judge ruled that medical marijuana patients have the constitutional right to grow their own cannabis. The Mexico Supreme Court ruled last November that marijuana use is a fundamental human right. Last December, the country of Colombia fully legalized medical marijuana. Isn’t it time that Ohio did the same?
Dear Taskforce members, a friend of mine likes to say all things happen for a reason. There is a reason that this Task Force was formed – many thanks to Chairman Schuring for his thoughtful leadership. The universe wanted to give you all as panel members a precious gift: the unique opportunity to immerse yourselves in an emerging and expanding body of knowledge. Your grad school crash course in all things cannabis. Now, you can take this important information back to your work places, communities, civic groups, churches and homes. You are now ambassadors for this remarkable plant and advocates for those whose lives can be healed by it. With this knowledge you have the capability to change minds and lives.
And, you all who are legislators now have an additional job to do. The Ohio General Assembly must break its 16-year hiatus and pass meaningful legislation. You were given seven Task Force hearings, over 80 witnesses and a mountain of documentation to enable you to do so. This means passing a law with patient protections, focused on the individual, Ohio-tailored and aligned with those inalienable rights belonging to all Ohioans. Think of the parents you have heard from and think of the children. Believe that done right, you have the power to ease human suffering and save lives. Please join with the Ohio Rights Group, the many advocates who have attended these hearings, your fellow Task Force members and the voters in your districts statewide to do the right thing. The body of knowledge you have learned here gives you the tools to do so.