Opposition to marijuana reform in America just got a lot weaker today, as former Republican House Speaker John Boehner has changed his stance on cannabis. Boehner - who once ardently defended marijuana prohibition - is now calling on Congress to loosen America's cannabis laws to help veterans, victims of the opioid epidemic and other people who can benefit from medical marijuana.
"I'm convinced that de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities," Boehner tweeted earlier today. De-scheduling cannabis means removing it from the Controlled Substances Act, which would essentially end federal marijuana prohibition, allowing individual states to decide the legality of cannabis.
While tweeting that statement, Boehner also announced his decision to join the board of advisors at the cannabis company Acreage Holdings.
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
Acreage Holdings aims to "make cannabis available to any patient who can benefit from safe and reliable access," according to a statement released by CEO Kevin Murphy following the announcement that Boehner as well as former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld would be joining the company. "The addition of Speaker Boehner and Governor Weld to our Board will lead to even greater access for patients by changing the conversation overnight."
The addition of Weld isn't surprising given his support for legalization while campaigning as the vice-presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party in 2016. But recruiting Boehner is stunning considering his trenchant opposition to marijuana reform in the past. In 2011, Boehner proclaimed that he was "unalterably opposed" to legalization. Now he's saying that his position has "evolved."
"Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically [toward marijuana]," Boehner told Bloomberg. “I find myself in that same position.”
Cynics will probably say that money might have nudged his evolution along. But Boehner says he was swayed more by studying problems with the American judicial system, which has packed prisons with non-violent cannabis offenders.
"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 explained. "We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there."
Regardless of his reasons for changing his cannabis stance, there's no doubt that getting Boehner onboard with reform is a major win for marijuana activists across the country.
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