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.”
The more people you know who use marijuana, the harder it becomes to say that they should be arrested for possessing it. After all, the vast majority of marijuana users are productive and otherwise law-abiding members of society. This fact has become increasingly evident as more and more people come out of the “cannabis closet” and become open about their experiences with the substance.
Last Friday, House Speaker John Boehner’s daughter Lindsay married Dominic Lakhan, a Jamaican-born construction worker. Lakhan was arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana in 2006.
Is it possible that Boehner, who has consistently opposed marijuana policy reform, will start to come around now that he has a convicted marijuana user for a son-in-law? Does he think Lakhan is better off with an arrest record or that Lakhan deserves to be arrested again for using marijuana? Would he care about how it affects his daughter? Only time will tell.
Let’s hope his experience is similar to that of Republican Senator Rob Portman, who changed his stance on gay marriage after learning that his son is gay. While this position initially caused a slight loss in approval among Republicans in his state, the growing acceptance of gay marriage (which has been nearly mirrored by the increasing support for marijuana policy reform) could actually help him in the long run.
Politicians’ thinking traditionally lags far behind the general public on social issues, but it gets a little harder to ignore when that thinking hurts your own family.