In this year’s race for Arizona’s open U.S. Senate seat, neither major party candidate has made strong statements in support of cannabis law reform, but voting records from the House, where both contenders are current members, show a contrast on the issue.
Democrat Kyrsten Sinema has been given a B rating by NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, for having supported a number of pro-reform measures. Her opponent, Republican Martha McSally, got a C rating from the group, having, for the most part, rejected cannabis proposals that have come before the House.
During her term, Sinema has voted in favor of various proposals to protect state adult use and medical marijuana programs, including a 2015 amendment to shield state marijuana laws from federal interference as well as one in 2014 and 2015 covering local medical cannabis policies. She also supported a narrower measure focused on state CBD laws, as well as three separate amendments in 2014, 2015 and 2016 that would have allowed doctors from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to recommend medical marijuana.
She also signed on as a co-sponsor of the Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act of 2015 and the SAFE Act of 2017, which also covers cannabis businesses’ financial services access issues.
Still, despite her positive voting record and legislative co-sponsorship, Sinema has made very few public statements of her own on the issue of marijuana law reform. In 2009, she tweeted a quote by the late Senator Carolyn Allen of Arizona: “Re: voting for budget. ‘I don’t know what they’re smoking… But if it’s marijuana, we ought to be taxing it.”
As a supporter of marijuana banking, she’s received donations from the National Cannabis Industry Association, according to the prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
On the other hand, Republican McSally has voted against all marijuana legislation during her time in Congress, except one measure: the 2016 Blumenauer Amendment to allow VA doctors to recommend medical cannabis. Otherwise, she’s stood against legislation to protect state medical marijuana laws, state adult use marijuana laws, state CBD laws, medical cannabis for veterans and industrial hemp.
McSally has also accepted more than $56,000 in campaign contributions from companies in the alcohol, pharmaceutical and tobacco industries, according to columnist Kris Craig, who called on the congresswoman to support legalizing marijuana. “How can we expect her not to be influenced by all that money?” he asked.
Meanwhile this past June, McSally tweeted about the country’s opioid crisis but made no mention of medical marijuana as a safer painkilling alternative. “This ad campaign is a powerful move by the White House to bring awareness to our youth about the painful truth of opioid addiction,” she wrote. “Next week, the House will consider a measure to help curtail this epidemic.” Cannabis didn’t come up until another Twitter user pointed out in reply that medical marijuana should be legalized federally.
Despite neither candidate has been particularly vocal about marijuana issues on the campaign trail, the contrasting House voting record of the two contenders gives voters an indication of where they would stand on similar measures brought before the Senate.