Early this week, former Republican House Speaker John Boehner announced his support for descheduling marijuana at the federal level. At the same time, he revealed his plans to become advisor to a multi-state marijuana industry firm with dozens of locations. This is a stark departure from his previous stance on marijuana. While in Congress, Boehner voted in favor of legislation that prevented the District of Columbia from implementing its voter-approved medical marijuana program for more than a decade, and was a vocal opponent of legalization.
Marijuana Moment reports:
Boehner, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld (R), is joining the Board of Advisors of Acreage Holdings, which holds 35 licenses for cannabis businesses across the U.S.
“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,” Boehner said. “We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there.”
In a tweet, Boehner, who did not endorse marijuana law reform while serving as the House’s top official, said he now supports removing cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, a process known as descheduling.
In a 2011 letter to a constituent, the speaker wrote, “I am unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug. I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.”
But now, Boehner says that he and Weld will advise Acreage on navigating confusing and conflicting federal and state marijuana laws.
While Boehner should be commended for seeing reason and adding his voice to those calling for sensible marijuana policy reform, many advocates are concerned that he is set to profit from policies he opposed and is not doing enough to counteract the impact of his words and actions while in office.
MPP's Morgan Fox told The New York Times that Boehner "should be actively working to reform federal marijuana laws to allow states to determine their own policies, rather than just consulting with a business to navigate the conflicts between state and federal law. His positions on the issue while in House leadership most likely slowed progress for marijuana reform legislation, and he owes it to anyone whose life has been negatively impacted by a marijuana arrest to use his considerable influence to make up for that.”
Vermont House Speaker Shap Smith, previously undecided about whether to support a bill that would make marijuana legal for adults and regulate it similarly to alcohol, has put his support behind such a measure for the 2016 session
Vermont Public Radio reports:
For months, Smith has taken a "wait and see" position concerning the legalization of marijuana. He said he wanted to remain undecided until Vermont lawmakers could closely evaluate the experience of Colorado and Washington, the two states that have legalized marijuana for more than a year.
Smith is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2016, and this legislation could be become a campaign issue.
Smith says he thinks it makes sense for Vermont to legalize marijuana if it can be done with a thoughtful approach.
"It's clear to me in my discussions with Vermonters that in general, the people in this state probably favor legalization,” Smith said on VPR's Vermont Edition on Aug. 28. “And I certainly believe that we can legalize marijuana if we do it right … we've seen what has happened in Colorado and Washington, and we can learn from their experiences."
Earlier this year, Sen. David Zuckerman and Rep. Chris Pearson introduced legislation to regulate marijuana, but the session adjourned before they were able to get a vote.