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John Boehner Joins Marijuana Firm’s Advisory


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 John Boehner Joins Marijuana Firm’s Advisory
Posted by CN Staff on April 11, 2018 at 07:43:32 PT
By Jennifer Kaplan 
Source: Bloomberg 

cannabis USA -- The U.S. marijuana industry has a new spokesman: John Boehner.

The Republican former Speaker of the House has joined the advisory board of Acreage Holdings, a company that cultivates, processes and dispenses cannabis in 11 U.S. states. Boehner’s endorsement, after saying nine years ago he was “unalterably opposed” to legalization, could be considered a watershed event: Marijuana has gone mainstream.

“Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically,” he said in an interview. “I find myself in that same position.”

Sixty-four percent of Americans, including a majority of both Republicans and Democrats, want to legalize it, according to an October Gallup survey. That’s the most since the pollster began asking the question in 1969, when 12 percent of the population favored legalization.

Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld will join Boehner on the advisory board of Acreage, which holds 35 licenses for cannabis businesses in the U.S. Boehner, 68, was first elected to the House of Representatives from Southwest Ohio in 1990. He was Speaker from 2011 to 2015, when he resigned amid problems with an increasingly fractious Republican caucus. Since then, he’s served as a board member for tobacco company Reynolds American Inc. and adviser for global law firm Squire Patton Boggs US LLP. Weld, 72, who was governor from 1991 to 1997, was the Libertarian Party’s candidate for vice president in 2016.

‘Immensely Positive’

“We view this advocacy that we get from these two gentlemen as immensely positive for the industry,” said George Allen, Acreage’s president.

The two former Republican politicians join Acreage as current officeholders vacillate on their support for weed. President Donald Trump has gone back and forth, while Attorney General Jeff Sessions is a longtime opponent. The Justice Department in January rescinded the Obama-era policies that allowed state legal pot markets to flourish.

Both Boehner and Weld say they’ve never tried the drug, but adult recreational use is legal in nine states and Washington, D.C. That means more than one in five American adults can partake. Twenty additional states allow for some form of medical marijuana. The legal market is expected to reach $75 billion by 2030, according to the investment bank Cowen & Co.

Still, the drug remains federally illegal and is classified as a Schedule I narcotic, the harshest of five government ratings.

Supported Referendum

Weld said he’s been in favor of medical marijuana since 1992 and supported the referendum that legalized recreational pot use in his home state in 2016.

“I was a little bit ahead of the field there,” he said in an interview.

Even so, his belief in the functionality of the plant has grown, he said, especially when it comes to easing the opioid crisis.

“Cannabis could be perceived as an exit drug, not a gateway drug,” he said.

Boehner said his perspective shifted after he saw the plant’s efficacy in helping a close friend deal with debilitating back pain. Marijuana’s potential use as a treatment for veterans helped sway him, too. Plus he’s been studying the problems of the U.S. criminal justice system for years.

“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.”

10th Amendment

On top of all those reasons to support the plant, Boehner and Weld say the debate over legalization is, at its core, a discussion of the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which allows states to do what they want.

“If some states don’t want marijuana to be legal, that’s their prerogative,” Weld said. “But that shouldn’t be dictated by the nanny state in Washington.”

Despite the GOP mostly lauding the amendment, Republican politicians have been split on the cannabis issue. Sessions’ harsh words for marijuana, and his decision to roll back Obama-era protections, didn’t deter Boehner or Weld’s decisions to get involved with the industry, they said.

“When I saw the announcement, I almost chuckled to myself,” Boehner said, referring to the policy reversal. “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.”

Winding Road

The politicians’ years in public office may help the company navigate the winding road to federal legalization.

“When it comes to an issue like this, that has what I’ll call murky legal issues and political issues, we’re there to provide advice to Acreage in terms of how they work with state and federal governments, how they work with local governments and advice on what states look promising,” Boehner said.

Neither Boehner nor Weld has made a financial investment in Acreage, though Weld says he’s considering it.

“Millennials who will inherit the kingdom before long, they are even more positive about cannabis than the populous at large,” Weld said. “You can look at the trend of millennial opinion and you can see the future.”

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Paul Ryan might be next. I heard the Koch brothers have put him up for sale on eBay.

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—In a fit of pique, David and Charles Koch have unceremoniously listed House Speaker Paul Ryan for sale on the auction site eBay.

The Kochs, who reportedly had purchased Ryan for a sum estimated in the tens of millions, now seem likely to lose their entire investment.

According to Ryan’s listing on the auction site, the Kochs set a five-hundred-dollar asking price for the used congressman, a figure that, in light of the tepid bidding for him, seems optimistic.

“Granted, owning Paul Ryan doesn’t have the benefits that it’s had for David and Charles for all of these years, but the status of owning a former Speaker of the House has to be worth something,” one Koch associate said. “Certainly more than the current high bid of seventeen dollars.”

The eBay listing suggested several possible uses for the former House Speaker, including as a Halloween ornament or garden gnome.

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John Boehner: Here’s What Changed His Mind
Posted by CN Staff on April 11, 2018 at 11:19:11 PT
By Christopher Ingraham and Alex Horton 
Source: Washington Post 

cannabis USA -- John A. Boehner, the former Republican speaker of the House who once said he was “unalterably opposed” to decriminalizing marijuana laws, has joined a board of directors for a cannabis company with an eye on rolling back federal regulations.

The former Ohio congressman, who led a party that was historically opposed to legalizing marijuana, has been appointed to the board of advisers of Acreage Holdings, Boehner said in a statement Wednesday. The company grows and sells legal weed and operates in 11 states.

“I have concluded descheduling the drug is needed so that we can do research and allow [the Department of Veterans Affairs] to offer it as a treatment option in the fight against the opioid epidemic that is ravaging our communities,” he said.

The move is a stark reversal for the former speaker, who in 2011 wrote a constituent that he was against “legalization of marijuana or any other FDA Schedule I drug,” adding that “I remain concerned that legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol.”

Boehner reiterated his opposition to legalization as recently as September 2015. Nearly half a million people were arrested for selling weed during Boehner's term as speaker from 2011-2015, Quartz reported.

Spokesman David Schnittger said Boehner's evolving position has been the result of close study after leaving office.

Currently, nine states plus Washington, D.C. have legalized recreational use of the drug, while many others allow some sort of medical use. The Justice Department has been prohibited from using federal funds to target state-legal medical marijuana businesses since 2014.

Erik Altieri, executive director for the Washington-based marijuana advocacy group NORML, told The Washington Post that Boehner’s acceptance of marijuana tracks with rising American and even Republican lawmaker evolving beliefs about the drug and its uses.

Boehner is joined on the board of advisers by former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, a Republican who left office in 1997 and was former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson's running mate in 2016 on the libertarian party ticket. As governor, Weld advocated for medical marijuana legalization since 1992.

It is unknown if Boehner or Weld hold paid positions on the board. Acreage Holdings spokesman Lewis Goldberg declined to discuss salary or benefits of its executives. Weld told Bloomberg he was considering an investment in the company.

Weld, a former federal prosecutor, said the conventional wisdom about marijuana during the Reagan administration was that it acted as a “gateway drug” to more harmful substances.

“Now there’s some evidence that it can become an exit drug” and an alternative to opioid addiction, which has become the primary public health concern in Massachusetts, he said in an interview with The Post.

Weld said his advocacy will likely find appeal among conservatives who champion state laws to regulate issues without federal interference.

In a joint statement, Boehner and Weld focused on a long-standing concern among veterans and advocacy groups — federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the same as heroin and ecstasy.

Current prohibitions have stymied research at Veterans Affairs to evaluate the drug's efficacy in treating post-traumatic stress and physical pain as the result of military service, then-VA Secretary David Shulkin said earlier this year. Critics of restrictions say a tangle of federal laws that regulate research and funding have confused VA and lawmakers on what it can evaluate.

Veterans advocating for decriminalizing marijuana have spoken with Boehner in the past, he said. “It was an argument he heard as a member, considered and never dismissed,” Schnittger said.

Descheduling cannabis would not legalize it nationally, but it would end federal marijuana enforcement and allow states to set their own marijuana policies without federal interference.

Polls show that over 60 percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana completely, with well over 90 percent in favor of legal medical use. Democrats eyeing a 2020 presidential run have grown increasingly vocal about the shortcomings of current federal law.

Acreage Holdings, a main player in the increasingly white-collar marijuana trade, will expand its research initiatives among universities as it seeks to “demystify” cannabis, chief executive Kevin Murphy told The Post. The company cultivates, processes and distributes marijuana in the growing, billion-dollar industry, according to its site.

The company focused on veterans in its messaging because they are “passionate” about broadening marijuana options available to former troops, Murphy said.

The American Legion, the largest veterans group in the country, found in a 2017 survey that veterans overwhelmingly support marijuana use for medical reasons. About 22 percent of veteran households said they use weed for medical reasons.

Altieri, of NORML, said he hopes Boehner will use his influence within the GOP to extend acceptance of marijuana, which may lead to legalization laws for veterans and nonveterans alike.

But, he said, Boehner probably would have been more influential had he been a proponent of marijuana use for veterans while he was speaker. Altieri said an earlier intervention “could’ve reduced veteran suicide,” which VA estimates to claim the lives of 20 veterans a day.

“It would’ve been more helpful for him advocating for this 10 years ago,” he said.

Alex Horton is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post. He previously covered the military and national security for Stars and Stripes, and served in Iraq as an Army infantryman.

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