On Episode #113 of “Cannabis News,” I discussed the news that former Speaker of The U.S. House of Representatives – John Boehner – has decided to enter the cannabis industry as a member of the board of advisers of Acreage Holdings, a marijuana company that operates in 11 states.
During the episode I alluded to some of the early reactions to the news and opined that I can see both sides of the issue; while it would have been super-helpful if Boehner hadn’t spent his time in Congress denigrating cannabis only to “evolve” on the issue when he no longer has any power over actual policy, at least he is adding his voice now, a voice that still has some clout with a segment of the population that continues to fight against legalization.
While the full range of reactions to Boehner are too voluminous to cover here, a sampling of those reactions will suffice to show just how split the community is on the issue.
“Regardless of motive, former Speaker Boehner is still held in high regard by a large percentage of the GOP membership and voter base,” Erik Altieri, Executive Director of NORML, said in a statement. “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.”
A much more critical take comes from marijuana activist, pundit and podcaster Russ Belville. “I’m glad that Boehner is finally on the right side, though it would be better if he came to the light out of virtue rather than greed,” Russ wrote on his website. “If he had made these pronouncements independent of joining Acreage’s board, they’d land with more moral weight. That he mouths these platitudes now without so much as an ‘I’m sorry I helped to lock y’all up’ to his customers, shrouding his drug war leadership in mistakes-were-made-style passive framing, makes his ‘evolution’ ring hollow to me.”
Tom Angell, who covers the cannabis scene for Forbes and his own website, took the opportunity to point out – as he often does – that the Democratic Party is losing ground to the GOP on an issue that Dems used to have locked up:
John Boehner is more progressive on marijuana than:
Bill de Blasio
The majority of Democratic governors & members of Congress
Do better, Democrats.https://t.co/qmkaRrsCV9
— Tom Angell (@tomangell) April 11, 2018
More recently, a spokesman for Boehner told Axios that the former Speaker “has no plans to lobby on this [marijuana law reform] or any other issue.” This news pushes me more toward Mr. Belville’s thinking on the issue; after all, it’s one thing to learn from your mistakes, but it’s quite another to hold your tongue while simultaneously making money off of an industry that still struggles to move into the land of legality, a struggle you had a big hand in perpetuating just a few years ago.
If you’re jumping in Mr. Boehner, the least you could do is be as vocal about your newfound support as you were about your opposition.