Why John Boehner Changed His Views on Marijuana Legalization

Why John Boehner Changed His Views on Marijuana Legalization

Let’s face it: If Attorney General Jeff Sessions had his wish, there would be no such thing as marijuana legalization in the United States. And while former House Speaker John Boehner held a similar view just a few years ago, times have changed.

It feels weird to say this, but former House speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has joined the advisory board of Acreage Holdings, a company with cannabis cultivation, processing, and dispensing operations in 11 U.S. states. Boehner’s about-face is turning heads, as the former House speaker says he was “unalterably opposed” to legalization nine years ago.

“Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically,” Boehner told Bloomberg. “I find myself in that same position.”

From Speaker to Spokesman

Boehner, who says he has never tried pot, says he changed his position on marijuana after being convinced about its potential to help veterans and after watching cannabis help a close friend suffering from back pain. He also says he’s long been troubled by problems within the U.S. criminal justice system.

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

Boehner is being joined on Acreage Holdings board by former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld. Neither has made a financial investment in the company, though Held says he has considered it. For now, Boehner says, they will be focused on providing Acreage with advice on how to deal with the “murky legal issues and political issues” that come with working with federal and state governments.

Saying No to the Nanny State

As Bloomberg notes, Boehner and Weld say the debate over legalization hinges on a discussion of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which gives states the freedom to act as they see fit.

“If some states don’t want marijuana to be legal, that’s their prerogative,” Weld says. “But that shouldn’t be dictated by the nanny state in Washington.”

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Sessions’ dislike of pot — as well as his desire to ramp up the powers of the nanny state by rolling back Obama-era protections on legal marijuana — has done little to dissuade Boehner or Weld from getting involved with the industry. In fact, Boehner actually finds the move kind of funny.

“When I saw the announcement, I almost chuckled to myself,” Boehner says, referring to the January reversal of the Cole Memo. “I don’t know why they decided to do this. It could be that the attorney general is trying to force the Congress to act.”

Stay tuned to the Sugar Leaf for updates.