MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Former House Speaker John Boehner Once Opposed Marijuana Legalization. Now He's a Pot Lobbyist.

He's doing it for the vets. And probably for the potential new customer base.

Can there be a more obvious sign of the pending end of the war on marijuana than this? Former House Speaker John Boehner announced today he's becoming a pot industry lobbyist.

No, really! Here's the Ohio Republican's tweet:

He's being joined on the board of advisers of Acreage Holdings (formerly named High Street Capital) with former Republican Massachusetts governor and former Libertarian Party vice presidential nominee Bill Weld. Recall that Republican New Mexico governor turned two-time Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson is already a part of the marijuana industry.

John BoehnerGARY CAMERON/REUTERS/NewscomWeld and Boehner put out a joint statement expanding on Boehner's tweet. They are taking a very conservative approach, pushing for a federal rescheduling of marijuana so that it can be researched and used for medical treatment. The pair repeatedly invoke marijuana's use as treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for veterans, they reference its use as a substitute for opioids to reduce the risks of overdose deaths, and they invoke the 10th amendment to get that "states' rights" hook in there.

Veterans groups have been pushing the Department of Veterans Affairs to help its patients gain access to medical marijuana. Only recently did the V.A. give doctors permission even to discuss medical marijuana as a treatment for veterans in state-approved programs. Its doctors still are not permitted to prescribe or assist veterans in obtaining marijuana, even in states where it's legal. And the V.A. will not pay for it.

Acreage Holdings is based in New York State and operates in 11 states. It has cultivation and processing facilities as well as dispensaries. It obviously is well-positioned to take advantage of new business opportunities if the V.A. gets approval not just to prescribe medical marijuana but to cover it. So getting the V.A. to cover medical marijuana for vets seems a likely lobbying aim. The company's ambitions are "keenly focused on expanding its footprint and continuing acquisitions, with aspirations to become the dominant national platform in the space," and they're pojecting that the cannabis industry will be bringing in $9 billion in retail revenue by 2020.

So ultimately, Boehner's transition is just like what we've seen from so many lawmakers before. They retire from Congress, then get jobs representing the very firms that used to lobby lawmakers for friendlier regulations and for porkbarrel spending. Don't be surprised to see Boehner's successor, Paul Ryan, doing something similar now that he's retiring too.

It's a double-edged sword in this case. Boehner's power and influence will be welcome in lobbying for changes to a horrible remnant of a drug war policy that has put thousands and thousands of Americans in prison cells. Boehner's involvement can be particularly important right now, given Attorney General Jeff Sessions' continued opposition to marijuana. Yesterday, Boehner announced that he'll be touring the country to campaign on behalf of Republican lawmakers facing midterm elections. The way he has crafted his message is clearly meant for Republican voters and lawmakers.

At the same time, it'll be important to keep an eye on how federal regulations are crafted if Boehner's efforts are successful. We certainly wouldn't want just one marijuana provider to get a crony contract that gives them prime or exclusive access to V.A. customers.

Photo Credit: GARY CAMERON/REUTERS/Newscom

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Bender B. Rodriguez||

    Weld and Boehner put out a joint statement

    JOINT statement.

    JOINT.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I love puns. (It's because they both probably have arthritis, right?)

  • Occam's Woodchipper||

    "Issa joke, son!" -Sen. Claghorn

  • Occam's Woodchipper||

    "Issa joke, son!" -Sen. Claghorn

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Docking?

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    The definition of "docking" on urban dictionary certainly is detailed.

  • silver.||

    Curse you, circumcision!

  • Brandybuck||

    Hell hath frozen over.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    More like his bank account has evolved, am I right?

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    As ever, follow the money.

  • colorblindkid||

    This is the kind of work that will actually get shit done. Not stupid stunts like Booker's no-chance-in-hell-it-will-pass proposal last year. Bipartisan efforts and groundwork with powerful lobbying is how it will get done.

    Screaming that your opponent is evil and the only way to change things is to get them out of office doesn't change peoples' minds. It makes them more resistant to changing.

  • EscherEnigma||

    Screaming that your opponent is evil and the only way to change things is to get them out of office doesn't change peoples' minds. It makes them more resistant to changing.


    Seeing as this story is about how being out of office changed Boehner's mind, I'm not sure this particular article supports your thesis.

  • NoVaNick||

    Wish I shared your optimism-if anything, I see progs becoming as anti-pot as Nixon or Nancy Reagan, now that the GOP sees it as a money making opportunity. There already is grumbling among them about "the children" being exposed to pot ads and consuming edibles that look like candy.

  • Don't look at me.||

    New killer product idea: edibles that look like tide pods.

  • Thomas O.||

    Well, sometimes that's the only way certain issues get to move forward. If the GOP holds on to power in the House, that means Pete Sessions gets to cockblock pro-pot legislation until he retires or dies. It'd be great if a) he got primaried in his district, b) he was defeated in the general by the democratic candidate (TBA, there's a runoff next month), or c) Joint Boehner talked some sense into him and he stopped that shit. While I'm not too thrilled about the Dems retaking the house, I'm sure the pro-cannabis people are seeing this as a destroy-the-village-to-save-it situation.

  • DajjaI||

    Despite the manifold hypocrisies, this is a HUGE victory for libertarians. Great work, people! Hearty back pats all around.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    I see what you're saying, but these assholes need to be called out and mocked mercilessly for these convenient evolutions of thought.

    Oh! You have PTSD from doing time in prison for pot? Well,[well-practiced-chuckle] this is gonna crack you up. I got just what you need.

  • JWatts||

    "I see what you're saying, but these assholes need to be called out and mocked mercilessly for these convenient evolutions of thought."

    Why? Did you think that through? Wouldn't that just convince the current crop of assholes that they'd better never consider changing their mind? Wouldn't that be worse?

    Personally, if someone changes their mind in a direction I agree with, I'm happy to welcome the results. Not wallow in past acrimony. Because, at some point in time, everyone is wrong and a jerk.

  • Propaganda Czar||

    Because Boehner does not give a shit about the issue. If he did, he would have advocated for it while he had voting power. What magic information did he learn that suddenly changed his mind? He is an opportunist who will flip the moment it is beneficial for him.

    The "fair weather friends" strategy almost always backfires on libertarians. How many "fiscally conservative" candidates do nothing to trim the budget? Play this game and you'll get burned.

    Save the praise for your friends that have their personal "libertarian moment." It is a far better use of time and energy.

  • MikeP2||

    Let go of your hate you much. Path to the darkside it is.

  • dave b.||

    Right. Just like "libertarian" Bob Fucking Barr

  • Jerryskids||

    He says his thinking has evolved. That's not going to sit well with the creationists. Better he should say he's had a Road to Damascus moment, the scales have been lifted from his eyes and yea, verily, he has seen the light.

  • colorblindkid||

    I forgot only Democrats are allowed to evolve on issues.

  • Jerryskids||

    Democrats can evolve because they fucking love science!

  • colorblindkid||

    Touche.

  • NoVaNick||

    Evolution for democrats stopped sometime around 1968

  • EscherEnigma||

    Yeah. Republicans have to "intelligent design" on issues.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    "Next the blind will see and the lame will walk."
    *w/ jazz hands

  • BigT||

    The lame will see the blind walk....into trees.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    And the V.A. will not pay for it.

    Cardi B and I don't want our tax dollars going for the wacky tobacky.

  • Calidissident||

    It's a shame these "evolutions" 99% of the time happen after the person in question has left an office where they had significant power to possibly implement their new position.

  • colorblindkid||

    Luckily, unlike Weld, Boehner still has some pretty heavy influence in Washington. Ryan letting a House bill to decriminalize weed go to vote before the election could save them a few seats. A bunch of Republicans will vote for it and quite a few Democrats vote will against it.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Same goes for police chiefs and other "the scales have fallen from my eyes" LEOs.

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    It could also be that Boehner is tired of being a drunken stewbum and is switching his personal drug of choice.

  • Agammamon||

    . . . because my thinking on cannabis has evolved.

    Its amazing how many people's "thinking on 'x' has evolved" once opposing/supporting 'x' is no longer as profitable as it was.

    See: Most of the members of LEAP, for example.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Maybe he found out that marijuana can be used to treat carotenosis.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    LOL thread winner
    collect chicken dinner at the door

  • Citizen X - #6||

    That better be prepackaged. I don't trust comestibles that any of you people have touched.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    One crust is as good as another.

  • Occam's Woodchipper||

    Crust of which sort?

  • Thomas O.||

    Sure, it's prepackaged.

    And sent by FedEx. From Austin. :)

  • BYODB||

    *does a spit take*


    I...don't know what to think about this. My world is shattered.

  • Sal Paradise||

    Next, Newt Gingrich goes on an ecstasy binge.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Or Newt will get into collecting exotic animals. Oh, wait - that ship has sailed.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Former House Speaker John Boehner announced today he's becoming [insert street name].

    Use of the word "orange" will cost -1 position.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Former House Speaker John Boehner announced today he's becoming a Tropicana mascot.

  • Thomas O.||

    ...Joint Boehner. (Or John Budner?)

  • Procyon Rotor||

    "My thinking has evolved" sure does seem to be a common euphemism among politicians for "I can gain politically or financially by being seen to change my position." I think it's exceedingly rare for these kind of changes to ever be genuine. Rather, the question is, were you lying then or are you lying now? Like when Obama "evolved" on gay marriage, and then went on to not do a single damn thing to actually change its legal status. But man, I know some people who praised him as if he had freed the slaves for having the "courage" to say it.

  • EscherEnigma||

    "My thinking has evolved" sure does seem to be a common euphemism among politicians for "I can gain politically or financially by being seen to change my position."


    Also for "I no longer gain politically or financially by pretending to hold a position I don't actually hold". It goes both ways, both with losing an incentive or gaining a new incentive. What's the "truth" in any given case is always a question. In this particular case, Boehner both no longer has an incentive be anti-pot (no more primaries or constituents) and has a new incentive to be pro-pot (new paycheck), so it's even harder to tell what his "real" position is, if you care to try and find it (it's also possible he has no "real" position and literally just does what's politically/financially expedient on this issue).

    That said, you seem to be forgetting all the flak President Obama got for not defending DOMA in court, and how his DoJ sided with the plaintiffs in Windsor and Obergfel.

  • Sal Paradise||

    Dave's not here, man

  • VinniUSMC||

    He's joined the board... So, he changed his mind to make a lot of money. Unless a better offer comes along?

    I mean, I'll take it. Mark it down in the "win" column.

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Recall that Republican New Mexico governor turned two-time Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson is already a part of the marijuana industry.

    We know that from watching his campaign.

  • Eidde||

    At least it got the LP out of the "Republicans who smoke pot" stereotype.

    Now it's "Republicans who sell pot."

    And "washed-out has-been Republicans who look like Leslie Nielsen, but without the gravitas."

  • Get lit||

    Good deal. Hell yes.

  • Tony||

    Hi$ $poke$man a$$ured u$ that he ha$ genuinely evolved on this $ubject.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Crusty made the same comment in a less annoying way almost two hours ago.

  • Tony||

    He also said Boner already likes to get shitfaced on merlot, so it wasn't that big of a leap really.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    I thought that was your mom.

  • Tony||

    Chardonnay. What are you gonna do.

  • JuanQPublic||

    Actually, considering Boehner as "forward thinking" on the issue says more about Washington than anything else. The U.S. has an Attorney General who is retreading Reefer Madness for the 21st century. That's where we are.

  • kevinq||

    Just like Obozo and his position on queer marriage. When it became politically expedient, he "evolved" in his thinking!

  • The Metonymy||

    I guara-fuckin-tee Boner uses the "you can tax it!" argument.

  • vek||

    To think, all it ever took to end the drug war was to bribe the politicians like other industries... Why didn't we think of this earlier???

  • Liberty Lover||

    Big money changes everything.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online