You can remind people John Boehner was “unalterably opposed” to cannabis reform during his tenure as Speaker of the House. You can remind them of Boehner’s voting records against any pro-marijuana amendments. And you can remind them Boehner only transformed into our unlikeliest marijuana spokesman once the money came rolling in.
But as he proved with a keynote speech beside Acreage CEO Kevin Murphy at the South by Southwest Conference last week, Boehner is here to stay in the cannabis conversation. Thanks to his longtime political connections and his position on the board of Acreage Holdings, it appears those within the cannabis industry have accepted the potential hypocrisy in all this as a simple change of heart, a position Boehner himself has pushed.
“I feel like I’m like your average American who over the years began to look at this a little differently and I think over the last five years my position, it has kind of softened up and softened up,” Boehner said during his appearance.
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Boehner credits his evolution with talking to American veterans about how cannabis has helped them PTSD and other ailments. He was also moved by stories of how the plant benefited children with intractable epilepsy.
“He’s passionate about the people in this country,” Murphy said about Boehner in previous comments to The Daily Beast. “And when asked what really had an impact on swaying his views, he came forth with one of the best answers I’d ever heard. ‘The people changed my mind.’”
And so the problem fits within the larger issue perpetuating throughout our politics—do we define public figures by their past, or are they allowed to change and grow in their views? Some chose the former at SXSW. The Equity First Alliance, an activist group that advocates for social and racial equality in the burgeoning cannabis industry, were seen heckling Boehner’s speech.
#SXSWeed holding a banner in the lobby of the Hilton, where many cannabis panels will take place today including a speech by John Boehner. #WarOnDrugs pic.twitter.com/xAXHWMb6XU
— Ministry of Hemp (@MinistryofHemp) March 15, 2019
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None of this, however, has influenced Boehner to try marijuana. However, the former House Speaker admits to using Advil PM every night before bed, and that maybe there’s a future where cannabis could replace his Advil PM usage.
“I’ve never used the product,” he said. “I smoke cigarettes, I drink red wine, I have a little bourbon. Not to say I’ll never use [marijuana,] but I haven’t yet.”