Marijuana firm gains unlikely ally: Former Speaker John Boehner

Former House Speaker John Boehner says his stance on a popular substance has shifted — and it's not merlot.

The former Republican congressional leader — and famed wine-drinker — announced Wednesday he is joining the board of Acreage Holdings, a firm that cultivates, processes and dispenses marijuana in 11 U.S. states.

The move marks a significant shift for the former lawmaker, who told Bloomberg 2011 that he was “unalterably opposed” to marijuana legalization but now says his views on the drug have “evolved.”

“I’m joining the board of #AcreageHoldings because my thinking on cannabis has evolved,” Boehner tweeted. “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, one of the nation’s largest cannabis corporations, said Wednesday that Boehner and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld were appointed to its board of advisers. Weld was the running mate of Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson in 2016 and has long supported loosening federal regulations on marijuana.

Acreage founder and CEO Kevin Murphy said appointing Boehner and Weld “will help shape the course of this nascent but ascendant industry.”

“Acreage has a mission to make cannabis available to any patient who can benefit from safe and reliable access,” Murphy said in a statement. “The addition of Speaker Boehner and Governor Weld to our Board will lead to even greater access for patients by changing the conversation overnight.”

Boehner’s endorsement of a shift in federal policy on marijuana comes as the Trump administration has moved to stifle the proliferation of marijuana decriminalization and legalization efforts in various U.S. states.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions in January rescinded an Obama-era policy aimed at paving the way for states to further legalize marijuana as part of an anticipated crackdown on the drug.

In announcing their appointments on Wednesday, Boehner and Weld expressed hope that increasing access to medical marijuana use could bolster health care remedies for veterans. The pair of former politicians in a joint statement questioned the Department of Veterans Affairs’ refusal to offer the drug “as an alternative to the harmful opioids that are ravishing our communities.”