John Boehner, the Republican former speaker of the US House of Representatives, announced early Wednesday that he has joined the board of directors of Acreage Holdings, a multi-state cannabis company with holdings in both adult-use and medical states.
Acreage announced that former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld has also joined the firm’s board.
Boehner’s about-face on cannabis legalization—to which he said he was “unalterably opposed” during his political career—came about because “my thinking on cannabis has evolved,” he said in a tweet earlier this morning. “I’m convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities.”
I’m joining the board of #AcreageHoldings because my thinking on cannabis has evolved. I’m convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities. @AcreageCannabis https://t.co/f5i9KcQD0W
— John Boehner (@SpeakerBoehner) April 11, 2018
Weld’s agreement to join the company is a coup for Acreage, but perhaps less surprising. Weld has always subscribed to a libertarian philosophy that includes legalization. In fact, he ran on the Libertarian Party’s presidential ticket in 2016, as the vice-presidential nominee alongside presidential nominee Gary Johnson, who was himself a former executive in the cannabis industry.
Today’s announcement marks Boehner as the highest-ranking Republican to both embrace legalization and join the industry. Other members of the party, such as US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Sen. Rand Paul, have advocated for the legalization of cannabis for years. Boehner, by contrast, remained a staunch prohibitionist during his time in office.
Boehner and Weld issued this joint statement via Acreage Holdings earlier today:
While we come at this issue from different perspectives and track records, we both believe the time has come for serious consideration of a shift in federal marijuana policy. Over the past 20 years a growing number of states have experimented with their right to offer cannabis programs under the protection of the 10th amendment. During that period, those rights have lived somewhat in a state of conflict with federal policy. Also, during this period, the public perception of cannabis has dramatically shifted, with 94% of Americans currently in favor of some type of access, a shift driven by increased awareness of marijuana’s many medical applications.
We need to look no further than our nation’s 20 million veterans, 20 percent of whom, according to a 2017 American Legion survey, reportedly use cannabis to self-treat PTSD, chronic pain and other ailments. Yet the VA does not allow its doctors to recommend its usage. There are numerous other patient groups in America whose quality of life has been dramatically improved by the state-sanctioned use of medical cannabis.
While the Tenth Amendment has allowed much to occur at the state level, there are still many negative implications of the Federal policy to schedule cannabis as a Class 1 drug: most notably the lack of research, the ambiguity around financial services and the refusal of the VA to offer it as an alternative to the harmful opioids that are ravishing our communities.
We are excited to join the team at Acreage in pursuit of their mission to bring safe, consistent and reliable products to patients and consumers who could benefit. We have full confidence in their management team and believe this is the team that will transform the debate, policy and landscape around this issue.
Acreage Founder and CEO Kevin Murphy said, “The addition of Speaker Boehner and Governor Weld to our Board will lead to even greater access for patients by changing the conversation overnight. These men have shaped the political course of our country for decades and now they will help shape the course of this nascent but ascendant industry.”
Both Boehner and Weld have agreed to immediately join the company’s board of advisors and have committed to join the company’s board of directors once it has been formed and other qualified directors have been appointed.