It feels strange to type “former Republican House Speaker John Boehner joins board of cannabis company” – but here we are.

Boehner’s history with cannabis

During his 24 years in Congress, first as a Representative for Ohio’s 8th District and later as Speaker, Boehner was no friend to the legalization cause.

In 1999, two years before he would lead the lower chamber, he voted against a bill to implement a voter-approved medical cannabis program in Washington, D.C. In 2004, Boehner was given a 0 percent score by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, indicating an “anti-legalization stance.” Two years later, he was ranked a -30 by the advocacy organization – indicating a “hard-on-drugs” stance. A -30 is the lowest score a lawmaker could receive.

Despite his prohibitionist history, Acreage Holdings, a New York City-based cannabis company, announced yesterday that Boehner had joined their board of directors. Bill Weld, the former governor and Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee in the 2016 election, also joined the board, but Boehner caught all the headlines.

In a joint statement, Weld and Boehner note that 94 percent of Americans are “currently in favor of some type of [cannabis] access” which they say is due to “increased awareness of marijuana’s many medical applications.” The statement invoked the failure of Veterans Affairs to consider cannabis “as an alternative to harmful opioids” and the Tenth Amendment – states’ rights – that has allowed 46 states to implement some form of legalization (including very restricted, CBD-only programs).

Boehner is just three years removed from his speakership but in a 4:00am tweet said he was joining the board because his “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,” he said in the tweet. Although, you have to wonder whether or not the fact that his daughter married a Jamaican man who was arrested in 2006 for possessing 4 grams of cannabis in Florida played a role in his evolution on this issue.

Cannabis industry reactions

Despite his organization twice giving Boehner the lowest legalization grade possible, NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri issued a statement indicating the group is willing to let bygones be bygones, saying that Boehner’s “evolution of marijuana legalization mirrors that both of the American public in general and Republicans specifically.”

Altieri cites a 2017 Gallup poll which found, for the first time ever, a majority of Republicans supported legalization (albeit just barely at 51 percent). In 2015, a Pew Research Center poll found 63 percent of millennial Republicans supported broad legalization. Earlier this year, a Fox News poll found 59 percent support for legalization, which made it more popular than President Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, Paul Ryan, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, the Republican tax overhaul, and the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall.

“Regardless of motive, former Speaker Boehner is still held in high regard by a large percentage of the GOP membership and voter base. We look forward to his voice joining the growing chorus calling for an end to cannabis criminalization,” Altieri said in the statement. “Anything that expedites the ability for patients to access this safe and reliable treatment alternative, and that facilitates an end to the practice of arresting otherwise law abiding citizens for the possession of a plant should be welcomed with open arms.”

In an interview with Bloomberg, Boehner pinpointed the moment he changed his mind about cannabis – seeing how it helped a friend deal with back pain. Moreover, Boehner said prohibition has “literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”

“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 said. In the interview, Boehner admitted that he “almost chuckled to himself” when Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo, which provided state-approved cannabis programs protection from federal interference.

Michael Correia, Director of Government Relations for the National Cannabis Industry Association said that while Boehner addition to Acreage’s board is “not a tipping point” that will push other GOP lawmakers and their constituents into the legalization camp, it is “an important first step” and that “it’s important to see the evolution of some former members of Congress.” Although Correia – whose handle is ThePotLobbyist on Twitter – said the addition of such a high profile former politician to a cannabis company board doesn’t surprise him.

“Now he’s free to tell you what he’s thinking and embrace some of these positions,” Correia said in an interview with Ganjapreneur. “I think as Speaker of the House he was the leader of his part and oversaw and spoke on behalf of a lot of different voices and what he could say as the Speaker would be possibly different than what he can say as a private sector individual.”

Correia suggested that some Republicans – especially the more federalist and libertarian-leaning – are coming to embrace cannabis reform because they believe in states’ rights.

“People who believe in federalism believe this should be a state issue,” he said. “And [Boehner joining the board] has been talked about a lot in D.C. It will get the media asking members of Congress, ‘If Boehner is doing this, what are your thoughts?’ And just raising the visibility on this issue is really important.”

Boehner’s new role

As a member of the board, Boehner will provide advice to Acreage “in terms of how they work with state and federal governments, how they work with local governments and advice on states that look promising.”

Boehner is far from the first U.S. politician to join the cannabis space – but he’s definitely the highest profile. Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson – the top of the Libertarian ticket that featured Weld – once served as CEO and president for Cannabis Sativa Inc., which owns dispensaries and invests in the cannabis space. When Johnson left the company, he was replaced by former Democratic Senator from Alaska Mike Gravel. The New Jersey Cannabusiness Association is led by former Republican state Rep. Scott Rudder.

So, perhaps the tides are turning. Maybe Boehner can get the ear of some of his former colleagues and urge them to support one of the two bills in Congress that would effectively end cannabis prohibition. Or maybe it’s a publicity-type stunt by Acreage and a cash grab by Boehner – but here we are.

Do you own a cannabis industry business? Create a listing in our directory and get discovered by new clients - Click Here

Tags: , | Categories: Cannabis Business News Cannabis Politics Opinions & Editorials

Learn about cannabis businesses:

View the directory | Get featured here

  • Viridian Staffing

    Founded in 2013 and dedicated solely to all sectors of the cannabis industry (Medical, Adult Use, Industrial Hemp and Ancillaries), our highly experienced recruiters have over a decade of experience (each) in human resources, staffing and recruiting for Fortune 500/100 companies across a broad spectrum of closely related industries including: food & beverage, agriculture, consumer packaged goods, software, medical technology and paper/pulp.

  • Dispensary Permits offers “seed to sale” consulting services with hands on support to medical marijuana entrepreneurs. Whether you are looking to break into the industry or you have previous experience with owning or operating a dispensary, cultivation, manufacturing or testing facility; our custom crafted solutions provide support and guidance for both novice and expert medical marijuana entrepreneurs.

  • TRIM Media House

    TRIM Media House is a full-service digital marketing agency with a heavy focus in visual content creation, website design, photography, and videography. If you are trying to navigate the digital arena when it comes to your brand, we would love to talk to you!

  • Lightning Labels

    Lightning Labels uses state-of-the-art printing technology to provide affordable, full-color custom labels and stickers of all shapes and sizes. From small orders for individuals to the bulk needs of big businesses, Lightning Labels is equipped to handle and fulfill custom label and product sticker orders of all types. Best of all, like the name implies, Lightning Labels provides exceptionally quick turnaround for all your printing needs.

  • Weed Pay LLC

    Weed Pay is a cannabis banking and merchant services company. We think differently than conventional credit card processing companies due to our history of handling high-risk accounts. We are experts in the field of alternative payment options, merchant accounts, and banking. Our mission and vision are to provide needed customer support services to the cannabis industry within these areas.

  • S2S Insurance

    S2S Insurance Specialists, LLC (S2S) provides risk management services to the Recreational & Medical Industry, both domestic and abroad. Through a specialized platform, S2S helps both public and private companies purchase important Insurance Coverages in the emerging Cannabis Industry. Our mission is to educate, advise and help our clients obtain hard to place General Liability (including Product & Completed Operations, Employment Practice Liability & Workers Compensation) for their cannabis-related operations. We go above and beyond our client’s expectations while always supporting them in the claims process

  • Go Green Hemp

    GoGreen Hemp specializes in everything CBD. We sell directly to consumers as well as to wholesalers and those interested in white label products. Our current product line consists of Gel Capsules, Gummies, Oil Drops and Balms.

  • MJ Freeway

    MJ Freeway® is the industry-leading software, consulting, and data solution for cannabis businesses, processing $5B in cannabis sales transactions and serving clients in every regulated market in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia. Founded in 2010 and designed and built specifically for cannabis businesses, MJ Freeway's technology includes a patented seed to sale supply chain ERP Platform which leverages sophisticated business intelligence insights.

  • My Cannabis Accountant

    We are a Boutique Accounting firm focused on the cannabis industry. Our management team has over 100 years of combined experience in public accounting. Running a legal cannabis-based business can be complicated. Let us make sure your business is compliant with all federal, state and local financial regulations so that you can focus on your business.

  • Releaf App

    The Dispensary Partnership Program uses data collected from patients, via Releaf App, to provide business analytics to dispensaries (USA) and licensed producers (Canada). This data service is creating a new class of dispensaries that are driven outcomes and patient results. The dispensary partnership program shows symptom-specific patient ratings & analytics for the specific cannabis batches and products in a dispensary’s inventory. Dispensaries use this information to give more informed recommendations at the counter.

  • eBottles 420

    The ultimate online resource for packaging supplies: we offer multiple options for every item you would possibly need, from vape cartridges to concentrate jars to child-resistant bottles.

  • Steep Hill

    Steep Hill is the world's leading cannabis science and technology company with significant footprints in lab testing, research and development, licensing, genetics, and remote testing. No other company brings these sectors into one synergistic whole. With the goal to provide "best practices" in cannabis testing, we provide expert consulting services to legislators and regulators in many countries around the world. Steep Hill: Leading the Science of Cannabis. Globally.

Want a job in the cannabis industry?

Sign up to apply for unlimited jobs and get discovered by companies who are hiring

Post Your Resume View all jobs

Recent Job Postings

Subscribe for daily cannabis news, announcements, and business insights.

Stay informed about the latest cannabis industry news, policy progress, and business developments.