On Wednesday, John Boehner, the former Speaker for the US House of Representatives, came out in support of legalizing cannabis while at the same time announcing he is joining the board of Acreage Holdings, one of America’s biggest cannabis companies.

Along with Boehner, Acreage is also welcoming aboard former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. They’re joining the Board of Advisors immediately, and will also join the Board of Directors once it is formed.

Boehner’s no-brainer

In a joint statement, the former Republicans noted that 94% of Americans support some form of legal cannabis and called out the federal government’s backwards stance on cannabis, saying:

“… 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 V[eterans] A[ffairs] to offer it as an alternative to the harmful opioids that are ravishing our communities.”

While it’s great that they have finally come around on cannabis, it is somewhat frustrating because they’re echoing what cannabis activists have been saying for years, if not decades- although it should be noted that Bill Weld has supported medical cannabis since the early 90’s.

In a recent interview, Boehner said:

“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. We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”

Better late than never, right?

This was a shocking about-face for Boehner, one of cannabis’ staunchest opponents- he even said that he was “unalterably opposed” to legalization in 2009! So what happened? Whatever it is, it’s happening in Canada, too, most notably with anti-cannabis crusader Julian Fantino, the former police chief and Minister of Veteran Affairs who once compared cannabis to murder, who now serves as executive chairman at a medical cannabis company.

But why does this change of heart only seem to happen after politicians have left office? If they were still in politics, they could have fought for change!

As House Speaker, John Boehner was one of the most powerful politicians in the country (and 3rd in the line to the presidency!), and under his watch from 2011-2015, 420,000 people were arrested for selling and trafficking cannabis, according to Quartz. That’s a lot of lives that could have turned out differently had he acted then.

In other news…

On the same day Boehner made his cannabis announcement, Paul Ryan, the current House Speaker who succeeded Boehner in 2015, announced his retirement from politics, saying he would not seek re-election in November’s midterm elections.

John Boehner also has previous experience in controlled substances, serving on Reynold American’s board of directors since 2016, which is one of America’s biggest tobacco companies.

 

Featured image courtesy of CNN.

Sources

Acreage Holdings: John Boehner and Bill Weld to join Acreage Board of Directors.

Financial Post: ‘Monumental’: John Boehner’s ‘bombshell’ weed reversal will send shockwaves through cannabis industry.

Quartz: 420,000 people were arrested for selling marijuana while John Boehner ran Congress.