Why The Cannabis Industry Needs Friends Like John Boehner

The Republican wants to help the plant avoid federal prohibition.

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The one time Capitol Hill carnivore and staunch opponent of marijuana legalization is responsible for keeping a number of pot-related bills from getting any considering in the halls of the lower chamber. But now that he has no official position in Congress, his attitude has changed. Former Republican House Speaker John Boehner announced last month that he has seen the light and now wants to do his part to bring the cannabis plant out of the depths of federal prohibition.

But Boehner’s motives seem to be more financially driven than just some midnight epiphany telling him that legal weed is the right move. The alcoholic-eyed Republican has joined the advisory board of the cannabis firm Acreage Holding, along with former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld. In a joint statement, the two said, “we both believe the time has come for serious consideration of a shift in federal marijuana policy.”

Of course, Boehner’s change of tune has prompted the cannabis community, the same one that was fully prepared to publically flog him not so long ago, to embrace its new friend.

A number of states have legalized the leaf for medicinal and recreational use, but the movement is not showing any signs of a slow down. There are a number of legalization attempts being made this year in part of the United States that are expected to pass without issue. This is because the majority of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana more than ever before. Some of the latest polls show 70 percent of the population believes that pot should be taxed and regulated in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco.

But, regardless of the strong public support for legalization, marijuana simply doesn’t have enough clout in Congress to go big. But a man like Boehner in the cannabis corner doesn’t hurt.

There are a number of marijuana-related measures lingering in Congress right now just waiting for lawmakers to give two flying squirts. Senator Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, which was introduced last year, is still collecting dust. More recently, Senator Chuck Schumer has said that he will submit a bill aimed at ending marijuana prohibition.

But all of this submitting and filing means nothing without the pressure (or incentive) to take action. Perhaps this is where Boehner might be able to do some damage on the cannabis industry’s behalf. He understands that “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.”

Even if Boehner’s influence on the Republicans doesn’t bring about significant change in the near future, some lawmakers are confident that a Democratic takeover on Capitol Hill in the next election could be enough to forge ahead to nationwide legalization by 2021.

“I made a bet that within five years, every state will be able to treat cannabis like alcohol and there will be universal access to medical marijuana,” said U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer. “If we do our job, it’s game over in two years.”

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