Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has joined the board of licensed Canadian cannabis company Tilray, according to a VTDigger report.
During his five terms as governor from 1991-2003, Dean was against all forms of legalization but told VTDigger that he changed his position after conversations with his daughter – a public defender in the Bronx – and recent research on CBD.
In 1997, Dean told the New York Times he was against even industrial hemp legalization, claiming that “the principal interest of the advocates is to legalize marijuana.” During his 2003 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, his website said that decriminalizing drugs sends “a very bad message to young people” and making cannabis legally available alongside alcohol and tobacco was “not a good idea.”
In the report, Dean, a physician, said that his daughter helped change his mind on legalization, pointing to the racial bias in cannabis enforcement.
“Then it became pretty obvious that poor kids of color with bad educations, they already had three strikes against them and the fourth was having a joint. Which after all is probably not as bad as alcohol.” – Dean, to VTDigger
Additionally, Dean said, he found the recent studies on CBD “reasonable” – which he didn’t a decade ago. He said this isn’t the first issue he had “flipped” on, adding that he came around on needle exchanges after seeing the programs in action.
On Tilray, Dean said the company got his attention because it’s run like “a pharmaceutical plant” and “run by Yale graduates.” However, Dean maintained that “black market” cannabis products “[kill] people.”
“There is a lot of really bad stuff going on now,” he said in the interview. “Maybe it would be a good idea if people had a predictable, reliable brand, and not something off the black market.”
He’s not the first politician to enter the space that was once leery of legalization. Last year, former Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, a Republican, joined the board of Acreage Holdings; in February, he was appointed the honorary chairman of pro-cannabis lobbying group the National Cannabis Roundtable.
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