Longtime Pot Opponent John Boehner Joins Cannabis Company Board

Longtime Pot Opponent John Boehner Joins Cannabis Company Board
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John Boehner, former Republican Speaker of the House, was once “unalterably opposed” to decriminalizing marijuana. But the plight of veterans made him change his tune, and now he has joined the board of directors of a cannabis company that’s looking to roll back federal regulations. [1]

In an interview, Boehner said:

“Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically. I find myself in that same position.” [2]

The former Ohio congressman says that he changed his mind about cannabis because so many veterans are in need of the medication.

Boehner has been appointed to the board of advisers of Acreage Holdings, a company that grows and sells marijuana and operates in 11 states. [1]

Erik Altieri, executive director for the Washington-based marijuana advocacy group NORML, is pleased with Boehner’s decision and says that it reflects the changing attitudes of Americans – including Republicans – toward marijuana. However, Altieri said, Boehner might have been more influential if he had supported cannabis for veterans while he was speaker.

“It would’ve been more helpful for him advocating for this 10 years ago.” [1]

In 2011, Boehner wrote a constituent that he was against “legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug.”

He added:

“I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.” [1]

During Boehner’s term as speaker from 2011-2015, nearly half a million people were arrested for selling marijuana.

Boehner said of his change of heart:

“I have concluded descheduling the drug is needed so that we can do research and allow VA to offer it as a treatment option in the fight against the opioid epidemic that is ravaging our communities.” [1]

In June 2017, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin came out in support of cannabis for veterans coping with PTSD.

Study: Patients Are Choosing Cannabis over Opioids

Bill Weld, former governor of Massachusetts, is another Republican joining Acreage’s board of directors. In a joint statement, Boehner and Weld stated:

“We need to look no further than our nation’s 20 million veterans, 20 percent of whom, according to a 2017 American Legion survey, reportedly use cannabis to self-treat PTSD, chronic pain, and other ailments. Yet the VA does not allow its doctors to recommend its usage. There are numerous other patient groups in America whose quality of life has been dramatically improved by the state-sanctioned use of medical cannabis.” [3]

Boehner and Weld said that maintaining marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug only serves to impede research and prevent the VA from offering the drug to vets as an alternative to opioids.

Morgan Fox, Director of Communications at the Marijuana Policy Project, said:

“Politicians have traditionally lagged behind the people on this issue, so it is wonderful to see one so adamantly opposed legalization reversing course like this.” [3]

Acreage founder and CEO Kevin Murphy said that by joining the board, Boehner and Weld will help bring about more access for patients in need of medical marijuana “by changing the conversation overnight. These men have shaped the political course of our country for decades and now they will help shape the course of this nascent but ascendant industry.” [3]

George Allen, Acreage’s president, said:

“We view this advocacy that we get from these two gentlemen as immensely positive for the industry.” [2]

Vahan Ajamian, an analyst at Beacon Securities Ltd., agreed, saying:

“It is difficult to overstate the impact of this monumental event for the U.S. cannabis sector.” [2]

Sources:

[1] The Washington Post

[2] Bloomberg News

[3] NPR