As the 2018 Congressional primary season approaches, you may be wondering where Sherrod Brown (D-OH) stands on cannabis legalization. The Buckeye State's senior United States Senator is sure to highlight his career as a positive-thinking, pro-free trade progressive as he runs for re-election this November.
Sherrod Campbell Brown has enjoyed the honor of holding an elected office for more than half of his life, as his passion for public service began while he was in college and was able to volunteer for politicians like George McGovern. Brown won his first election for public office, a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives, in 1974 right after graduating from college. He was the youngest member ever elected to the Ohio House of Representatives at the time. Brown went on to serve as the Ohio Secretary of State from 1983-1991, and represent Ohio's 13th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993-2007, and he won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2006 after running on a progressive platform, which he has held since 2007.
During his time in Congress, Senator Brown has expressed his reservations about cannabis legalization, and he has neither voted on a piece of legislation regarding marijuana nor sponsored a bill on the subject. However, he has come around to supporting legalized medical marijuana (which Ohio residents voted to legalize in 2016) in recent years, saying in 2015 that "the evidence is in that it works for a number of patients" for managing their illnesses. Also, in response to Attorney General Jeff Session's decision to overturn the “Cole Memo” earlier this year, Senator Brown said “I wish the attorney general would mind the store on other things and would put his efforts into this terrible addiction issue about opioids and worry less about medical marijuana.”
Yet Senator Brown harbors skepticism when it comes to cannabis in general, saying in 2010:
"While it is important to consider the potential medical benefits of marijuana, particularly for terminally ill patients whose quality of life may hinge on effective pain management, there are risks associated with making marijuana legally available. The widespread popularity and use of this drug among our nation’s youth, as well as its role as a “pipeline” drug...distinguishes it from other controlled substances, and we must be particularly careful before creating the potential for expanded access and use.”
Senator Brown has said he believes there are “far too many” unknown consequences of legalizing marijuana, and has “significant concerns” about children consuming cannabis.
Our Grade: C-
His support for medical marijuana and protecting the rights of states where cannabis is legal is encouraging, but his out-dated views that cannabis is a “gate-way drug” (a claim that has been debunked) and that legalizing the herb will make it easier for children to access marijuana are disappointing.