The Republican former Speaker of the House, John Boehner now speaks for The U.S. marijuana industry. He is now part of the advisory board of Acreage Holdings, a company that cultivates, processes and dispenses cannabis in 11 US states.
64% of Americans, along with the majority of both Republicans and Democrats are for legalization of marijuana, according to an October Gallup survey.
That’s the most that America has ever agreed on in legalizing cannabis. About nine years ago Boehner stated he was “unalterably opposed” to legalization but now endorsed that it could be considered a watershed event as Marijuana has gone mainstream.
“Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically,” he said in an interview. “I find myself in that same position.”
Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld will join Boehner on the advisory board of Acreage as well. The politicians are a sign of a watershed moment for the industry, according to Vahan Ajamian, an analyst at Beacon Securities Ltd.
President Donald Trump has gone back and forth, while Attorney
General Jeff Sessions is a longtime opponent. The Justice Department in January rescinded the Obama-era policies that allowed state legal pot markets to flourish.
Both Boehner and Weld say they’ve never tried the drug, but adult recreational use is legal in nine states and Washington, D.C. That means more than one in five American adults can partake. Twenty additional states allow for some form of medical marijuana. The legal market is expected to reach $75 billion by 2030, according to the investment bank Cowen & Co.
Still, the drug remains federally illegal and is classified as a Schedule I narcotic, the harshest of five government ratings. “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,” Mr. Boehner wrote on Twitter, referring to how the federal government classifies marijuana.
Erik Altieri, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a pro-marijuana advocacy organization, said Mr. Boehner had opposed “even the mildest of marijuana law reforms.”
Similar to the October Gallup survey, about 61 percent of Americans said marijuana should be legalized in a Pew Research Center survey from October, compared with 31 percent in 2000.
But there remains divide in the two-party system support of legalization. While 69 percent of Democrats supported legalization in the Pew survey, just 43 percent of Republicans did. In the Gallup poll, 72 percent of Democrats supported legal marijuana, compared with 51 percent of Republicans.
Mr. Altieri stated Mr. Boehner could have more credibility among opponents, and be able to meet them where they are. He also said it would be crucial for Republican leaders to take charge of the issue, considering the party’s control of the federal government and numerous state capitols.
“If this is only led by Democrats, we will continue to see no forward momentum on this issue,” he said. “We really need to present this as the bipartisan issue it really is.”
Source: Bloomberg News
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg