U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an ardent opponent of the right of states to set their own marijuana laws without federal interference.
But now, a leading candidate for Sessions’s former seat representing Alabama in the U.S. Senate is making support for cannabis law reform an important part of his campaign.
“Medical cannabis should be treated like any other treatment that saves lives or eases pain and symptoms. In a land of freedom and liberty, that decision is best kept between a doctor and a patient,” Congressman Mo Brooks, a fellow Republican, said at a press conference on Monday. “That is what I believe. That is how I will vote in the Senate. That is how I have voted in the House.”
The reason for the event was for Brooks to receive the endorsement of Dom Gentile, a businessman who is dropping out of the race for the GOP nomination following his wife’s diagnosis with a rare form of breast cancer.
The short press conference had a specific focus on medical cannabis, an issue that Gentile made headlines by endorsing earlier this year.
Gentile brought marijuana up less than a minute into his opening remarks about the suspension of his candidacy, later adding, “To my supporters who advocate for the rescheduling of medical cannabis from a class one drug, so that the states can decide how to dispense this medicine, I want to let all of them know that Mo Brooks is in your corner.”
Brooks said, “While there are many issues in this Senate race, I mention one that is very important to Dominic Gentile,” before reading a statement articulating his support for states’ marijuana rights.
Brooks says medical cannabis sould be treated like any other treatment. It's a big issue for Gentile, who supports medical marijuana. pic.twitter.com/G3waG1dpHH
— Howard Koplowitz (@HowardKoplowitz) July 17, 2017
As a member of Congress since 2011, Brooks has voted in favor of some, but not all, marijuana law reform amendments that have come to the House floor.
“I am a firm supporter of the Constitution’s 10th Amendment states’ rights provision,” he said at the Monday event. “As such, medical treatment decisions are not the federal government’s right to dictate. That decision should be left to state governments, their elected officials, doctors and patients.”
Brooks’s leading competition for the Republican nomination is current Sen. Luther Strange, who served as Alabama’s attorney general until then-Gov. Robert Bentley appointed him to fill the Senate seat vacancy when Sessions was confirmed as U.S. attorney general in February.
Also running is Roy Moore, a former state Supreme Court justice who was removed from that office after issuing an order directing state judges not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The first round of the Republican primary will be held on August 15, with a runoff scheduled for September 26, if necessary. The general election will be held on December 12.
Alabama is a heavily Republican-leaning state, and Sessions ran for the seat unopposed in both the primary and general election in 2014.
Earlier this year, Sessions wrote a letter asking Congress to delete a current provision that stops the Justice Department from spending money to interfere with state medical cannabis laws.
Brooks twice voted for that budget rider, in 2014 and 2015, though he opposed an earlier version in 2012. In 2015, he also backed a broader measure to block Justice Department interference in all state marijuana laws, including those allowing recreational use.
On the issue of allowing military veterans to receive medical cannabis recommendations though the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Brooks supported amendments to that effect in 2014 and 2016, but voted against a similar proposal in 2015.
Strange hasn’t yet had the opportunity to vote on any marijuana measures as a U.S. senator. But as Alabama attorney general, he defended a life sentence given to a 76-year-old man convicted of possessing marijuana that was allegedly grown for personal use.
Moore, for his part, wrote in an opinion in the same case that the sentence was “excessive and unjustified” and revealed “grave flaws” in the state’s sentencing system.
Moore’s son Caleb has been arrested on marijuana and drug charges on a number of occasions.