Since before Trump’s poorly-attended inauguration, it was a monumental task to envision or find much good about the prospects for America in the foreseeable future. It is true there has been a dearth of good news over the past year-and-a-half, but with a little exploration, one did discover an incredibly encouraging bit of news. And believe it or not, it involves a well-known Republican many liberals have despised for years, former Speaker of the House John Boehner.
In what is being rightly labeled “a watershed event,” Acreage Holdings proudly announced that the former House Speaker has joined the organization’s advisory board and will be a significant spokesman for the United States of America’s legal marijuana industry. That’s right, Republican John A. Boehner who just nine years ago claimed “he was unalterably opposed” to cannabis legalization will be a spokesperson and serve in an advisory capacity to a “major company that cultivates, processes and dispenses cannabis in 11 U.S. states.”
Look, whether or not one uses the weed for its medicinal or entertainment value, this is, as Vice President Joe Biden once said, “a really BFD.” Over at Bloomberg, Jennifer Kaplan noted that with Boehner and former Massachusetts Governor William Weld (R) joining Acreage Holdings, “marijuana has gone mainstream.”
No doubt a sworn enemy of cannabis, Attorney General J. Beauregard Sessions suffered a minor shit fit at the announcement that two Republicans, one formerly third in line to the presidency of the United States, will be promoting a weed Sessions claims has no medical value, and that only “bad people” use it.
First, it is noteworthy that Messrs. Boehner and Weld claim to have never used marijuana and have no intention of starting. It is not uncommon for legalization advocates to have never used reefer for recreation or medicine.
Indeed, world renowned travel celebrity and author Rick Steves is an important and highly visible board member of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and he does not use weed. His advocacy for legalization, like one of the reasons John Boehner gave for joining the decriminalization crusade, is the abominable practice of imprisoning non-violent Americans convicted of either possessing, cultivating, using or dispensing cannabis. The point is that one does not have to use the weed to understand the absurdity of criminalizing a “medicine” that grandma and grandpa can grow in the backyard, or on their retirement home balcony.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Mr. Boehner explained why he is joining the Acreage Holdings advisory board and advocating for the weed’s decriminalization; and no, it is not because he has any pecuniary interest in the company. He said:
“Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically. I find myself in that same position. 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.”
Boehner went on to explain that, like many Americans, his opinion of the weed shifted dramatically “after he saw the plant’s efficacy in helping a close friend deal with debilitating back pain.” He also said that besides studying the U.S. criminal justice system’s problems for years, the weed’s potential for treating the nation’s Veterans played a big part in helping to sway him.
Former Massachusetts governor Weld did not require any “swaying” because he has been an advocate for decriminalization since 1992 and supported the 2016 referendum that legalized recreational pot use in his home state. Weld also said that his “belief in the functionality of the plant has grown” since 1992; particularly with the weed’s use for “easing the opioid crisis.” He said, referring to marijuana’s success at treating opioid addiction:
“Cannabis could be perceived as an exit drug, not a gateway drug.”
Weld and Boehner both claim the core issue is a 10th Amendment matter; an argument that should satisfy even the most ardent Republican opposed to legalization. Mr. Weld said that, “If some states don’t want marijuana to be legal, that’s their prerogative. But that shouldn’t be dictated by the nanny state in Washington.”
Currently, it is Beauregard Sessions who is “dictating” to the states that cannabis is only used by “bad people” and that it has no medicinal value whatsoever. This is, in fact, after he was pilloried in the House by Republicans and Democrats alike for his “harsh” position on weed, and after he was presented with documented research demonstrating the plant’s medicinal value.
Regarding Sessions’ tough stance on marijuana, Boehner said Sessions’ harsh words for the weed, and his decision to roll back President Obama’s protections for states didn’t deter him or Mr. Weld from deciding to get on board with an industry set to record a healthy $75 billion within ten years and outpace the soda industry. Mr. Boehner said:
“When I saw the [Sessions] announcement, I almost chuckled to myself. 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.”
No, Sessions is clear about his motive, and he is determined to keep marijuana listed as a Schedule 1 substance with heroin and much worse than cocaine. Remember, Sessions hates marijuana more than he loves being a racist which is why he complained about a group he really admired, the Ku Klux Klan because some of the white supremacists used marijuana.
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri issued a statement regarding Mr. Boehner as an advocate for decriminalization saying in part:
“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. 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.”
It is almost certain that most Americans who support decriminalizing cannabis, roughly 64 percent of Republicans and Democrats alike, are going to welcome both Mr. Boehner and Mr. Weld to the crusade to stop the absurdity of weed as either illegal or listed as a dangerous drug on par with heroin. What is amazing is that John Boehner is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative and has characteristically been resistant to change; that he evolved from being “unalterably opposed” to decriminalizing marijuana in less than nine years is remarkable. That the man is now an advocate for legalizing the weed is mindboggling, and “highly” encouraging for a majority of Americans.