Attorney General Jeff Sessions is gone from the Senate, but while he’s off creating a vision of America best recognized from torchlight rallies at midnight, business is continuing as if he’d never left the seat.
And the way things stand, that won’t change, following the special election for the spot representing Alabama in the U.S. Senate later this year.
Sessions’s appointed replacement, Luther Strange, is also a former state attorney general with a record of politically motivated criminal investigations (who, earlier in his career, beat out George Wallace’s son for the office of lieutenant general). In Washington, Strange has been a staunch and reliable Trump supporter, who voted to amend Senate rules to allow Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination, while still promising to “drain the swamp.” (Though to his credit, Strange has yet to conveniently forget about any sensitive meetings with top-level Russian officials.)
Strange’s chief rival in the August Republican primary, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, once declared the existence of a “war on whites,” before joining the House Freedom Caucus, which is largely responsible for the House’s approval of a plan to take healthcare away from 23 million Americans.
Swell guys! Alabama really knows how to pick ‘em. By these standards, fellow Republican Dom Gentile, a businessman from Hoover, Alabama, who once played for the University of Alabama football team as a kicker, is the most chill man in the state.
He is certainly the most chill man to vie for Sessions’s seat—and that was true before he announced his support for medical marijuana.
This is a maverick thing to do, and it’s been almost a decade since being a maverick was a good thing for Republicans—and backing cannabis has never really been a thing for the GOP in the Deep South.
Sessions made his name as a law-and-order attorney general and U.S. prosecutor, and Alabamians had no problem with a drug war advocate representing them in the Senate.
Suffice to say Gentile is the only Republican in the race to replace him to come out as a weed advocate. Not that he’s left, at all: Gentile wants a flat tax and has called for an end to the “monopolistic” control over Alabama healthcare by Blue Cross/Blue Shield.
Alabama has a very primitive medical marijuana program. For certain very sick people in the state, CBD oil produced in other states is decriminalized—which is to say, people who break the law to get medicine may be able to escape serious punishment. That’s not very good.
“I have recently met with dozens of people who are stricken with medical conditions such as epilepsy, seizures, severe autism, Alzheimer’s and MS. Many of them have symptoms that can be relieved by cannabis that is specifically formulated for medical use.” Gentile said in a statement released to AL.com. “As I listened to the passionate pleas of these patients and their families, and understood how this can help them, I became a believer that something needed to be done at the federal level.”
“Medical cannabis is listed as a Schedule 1 controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. It is in the same class as heroin and LSD, and that is absurd,” he continued. “I am calling for the FDA and the DEA to immediately re-classify cannabis for medical use and allow the states to decide how to dispense the drug.”
Gentile keeps up some of the positive rhetoric, pinning the blame for marijuana prohibition on the immense power wielded over Congress by pharmaceutical companies.
But just in case you were confusing him for a fellow traveler, Gentile is “strictly opposed” to recreational marijuana—which leads us to believe that he, too, may believe that “good people don’t smoke” the stuff.
Gentile is almost surely an extreme long shot for the seat, and it’s not clear what political calculus led him to pick cannabis as the issue to separate himself from the rest of the future possible Sessions successors. It could be a desperation ploy. But it’s coming from a Senate candidate taken seriously enough to have rational, reasoned support for marijuana printed in a major Alabama newspaper, so we’ll take it.