Republican John Boehner, who had always maintained that he was “unalterably opposed” to marijuana legalization back when he was serving as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, announced on Wednesday that his position has changed and he has signed on to the advisory board of Acreage Holdings, one of the largest cannabis companies in the United States. He is joined on the board by former Republican Massachusetts Governor and 2016 Libertarian Party vice presidential candidate Bill Weld.
I’m joining the board of #AcreageHoldings because my thinking on cannabis has evolved. I’m convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities. @AcreageCannabis https://t.co/f5i9KcQD0W
— John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) April 11, 2018
A news release by Acreage Holdings said, “As members of the Board, Speaker Boehner and Governor Weld will bring an immense, collective and unique set of experiences in government affairs, unmatched leadership and guidance to help drive Acreage towards its strategic mission.” The first phase in this strategic mission appears to be an effort to take down the federal government’s Schedule 1 categorization of cannabis as a hardcore narcotic with no medical use, which prevents scientists from studying potential medical benefits.
[Related: Health and Human Services Secretary: ‘No Such Thing As Medical Marijuana’]
“The effect of marijuana being a Schedule class 1 narcotic in Washington is a seriously flawed idea. Descheduling is the most constructive step that could be taken,” Bill Weld told The Boston Herald.
A Wednesday joint statement by Weld and Boehner read, “While we come at this issue from different perspectives and track records, we both believe the time has come for serious consideration of a shift in federal marijuana policy. Over the past 20 years a growing number of states have experimented with their right to offer cannabis programs under the protection of the 10th amendment. During that period, those rights have lived somewhat in a state of conflict with federal policy. Also, during this period, the public perception of cannabis has dramatically shifted, with 94 percent of Americans currently in favor of some type of access, a shift driven by increased awareness of marijuana’s many medical applications.”
It continued, “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. While the Tenth Amendment has allowed much to occur at the state level, there are still many negative implications of the federal policy to schedule cannabis as a Class 1 drug: most notably the lack of research, the ambiguity around financial services and the refusal of the VA to offer it as an alternative to the harmful opioids that are ravishing our communities.”
David Schnittger, spokesman for John Boehner, told The Washington Post that the former speaker changed his mind on the issue after studying it closely upon leaving office.
Weld said that though it was believed that marijuana was a gateway drug when he was a prosecutor under President Reagan, “Now there’s some evidence that it can become an exit drug” for individuals addicted to opiates.
According to The Hill, some Republican members of Congress are optimistic that cannabis legalization may take place during 2018.
“I’m fairly optimistic that this year will be the year that we can make great progress on this. We had 68 Republicans vote with us last time, and I think it’ll probably be 75 or more next time around,” said California Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
“Today’s constituency within the Republican Party has changed. I think that we will be able to have this and expand on this change among Republicans and that’s what’s going to give us the leverage to actually change the law,” he added.