Former House Speaker John Boehner, the chain-smoking, wine-loving Republican, announced on Wednesday via Twitter that he is joining the green rush.
Boehner, who had been quietly enjoying his retirement since retiring in 2015, will be joining the board of advisers at Acreage Holdings, a cannabis business that aims to “make cannabis available to any patient who can benefit from safe and reliable access.” Boehner is the most recent public official to reverse his position on marijuana and endorse legal reform.
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
For years, Boehner, the son of a bar owner, railed against any type of cannabis legislation. In a 2011 letter to a constituent, the Ohio Republican wrote:
“I am unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug. I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.”
On Wednesday, he officially altered his stance. “Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically,” he told Bloomberg. “I find myself in that same position.
“When you look at the number of people in our state and federal penitentiaries, who are there for possession of small amounts of cannabis, you begin to really scratch your head,” Boehner continued. “We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”
During his 25-year career in the House, the hard-drinking Boehner was a key ally of the alcohol industry. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, and the National Beer Wholesalers Association were generous donors to Boehner’s political action committee.
Joining Boehner on the Board of Advisors of Acreage Holdings will be Bill Weld, the former governor of Massachusetts. In the 2016 election, Weld ran as the Libertarian vice presidential candidate alongside Gary Johnson, a longtime cannabis advocate.
In a joint statement, Boehner and Weld wrote:
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.
Kevin Murphy, the founder and CEO of Acreage, now has two powerful political insiders to help the company — and the industry — gain acceptance among lamakers on the fence. “The addition of Speaker Boehner and Governor Weld to our Board will lead to even greater access for patients by changing the conversation overnight,” said Murphy. “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.”
New York-based Acreage Holdings is a multi-state owner of cannabis licenses and assets. So far, the company has operations in 11 states.