A surprising new advocate for marijuana has stepped forward. Republican former Speaker of the House John Boehner has joined the advisory board of Acreage Holdings, a medical marijuana company. Boehner tweeted his decision, stating that his “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.” Acreage Holdings cultivates and distributes medical marijuana products to 11 states throughout the country. His involvement in such a large company has been a profound statement that some are calling a sign that marijuana truly has become mainstream.
Leaving Cannabis to the 10th Amendment
Former Republican and Massachusetts Governor William Weld will also join Boehner on Acreage’s board. Weld was the Governor for Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997, a state which has since decided to legalize the plant for recreational as well as medical purposes. Weld was also the Libertarian Party’s candidate for vice president in 2016. According to Bloomberg, both politicians state that they have never used the plant. But they also believe its legal status, state to state, is a 10th Amendment issue, which is about letting states decide their own laws. “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.”
Nationwide Bipartisan Support for Cannabis
Right now, 8 states have legalized the plant for recreational use and 29 states have legalized it for medicinal purposes. The popularity of the plant continues to grow as reflected in the most recent Gallup Poll which shows that 64 percent of Americans are in favor of legalizing the plant for recreational use by adults over the age of 21. This number includes both Republicans and Democrats alike. Support from such high profile Republican public figures has sent ripples throughout the marijuana industry.
Federal Stance on Marijuana
Trump himself has fluctuated on the subject although the Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is a long time vocal prohibitionist, has been working to block marijuana reform. Research has been prevented and he has sent out memos asking prosecutors to pursue the highest penalties possible for anyone caught with drugs of any kind. He has called it slightly less awful than heroin and said that good people don’t use it. Weld, on the other hand, has been vocal about marijuana’s ability to reduce the opioid crisis. Statistics show that in states where marijuana is available in any form, opioid addiction, use and overdoses are greatly reduced. “Cannabis could be perceived as an exit drug, not a gateway drug,” says Weld.
Despite the overwhelming support for marijuana by the population all through the country, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug. This category is reserved for drugs that are highly dangerous and addictive, not safe to test on adults and have no medicinal benefits. The classification has lost public support and the industry continues to increase. States independently continue to legalize the plant and new support surfaces on a regular basis. According to the investment bank, Cowen & Co, the legal industry is expected to reach $75 billion by 2030.