Conservatives hatred of cannabis is sadly a political stereotype which often rings true. One notable exception being Kentucky senator Rand Paul.
Texas governor Greg Abbott has stated that cannabis will not be legal in any form during his governorship apart from the CBD oil-allowing Texas Compassionate Use Act, and Kentucky governor Matt Bevin is opposed to legalization due to the increase in emergency room visits in Colorado due to cannabis. While it is true that emergency rooms in the state have seen an increase of about 217 per 100,000 ER visits since the 2014 legalization (1), most of those visits are associated with anxiety/panic attacks sometimes accompanied due to cannabis or the plant being destigmatized.
Willie Nelson is living proof that it is virtually impossible to fatally overdose on cannabis.
The growing group of GOP cannabis supporters recently received an unlikely addition in the form of Former Speaker of The House John Boehner.
During his tenure as Speaker, Boehner notoriously told a constituent in 2011 that he opposed legalization due to his concern that “legalization will result in increased abuse of all varieties of drugs, including alcohol. (2)” Boehner remained adamantly opposed to any type of descheduling and/or legalization throughout the remainder of his tenure.
Despite his adamant oppositions to cannabis legalization while he was an elected official, now that he no longer holds an office, he claims that his concerns over the crises of treating veterans and the opioid epidemic have moved him to change his views. Boehner announced his support of medical cannabis and involvement with cannabis investment company Acreage Holdings in a recent press release.
“I have concluded descheduling the drug to Class III is needed so that we can do research and allow the VA to offer it as a treatment option in the fight against the opioid epidemic that is ravaging our communities,” Boehner wrote.
The former Speaker then continued by saying that descheduling cannabis to a Schedule III is necessary primarily so federally funded organizations, currently unable to study cannabis due to federal prohibition, can conduct research and tests on the plant and in the case of the Veterans Association, use the flower to utilize as a much safer treatment option as opposed to the laundry list of medications that veterans are occasionally prescribed.
Along with former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, Boehner will serve on the board of advisors for Acreage Holdings, offering political insight to further medical legalization of cannabis. While CEO Kevin Murphy described the company as “medically focused” on CNBC’s “Squak on The Street”, he also stated that Acreage Holdings learned that over 50% of those who use recreationally are “self-medicating” but are averse to going through of the sometimes arduous process of getting a medical card. (4)
Given Boehner’s political clout, his criticism of using police resources on small-level possession or usage cases, and the very fact that Boehner has done a complete 180 about his thoughts on cannabis, he could be one of the many new driving forces behind full-scale medical and eventual recreational legalization.
With many important state decisions on cannabis that will most likely occur during the 2018 midterms, maybe the former Speaker’s changed stance on legalization will change the mind of the American voters usually against cannabis.
But also, maybe NOT. Boehner’s stance on cannabis changing now that he is out of office is no surprise. The over prescribing of medications to Veterans with PTSD, and the opioid epidemic, were just as rampant and disheartening when he was in office, as they are now. He did nothing when he could have really done something. Maybe he has seen the light, but also, maybe he has seen a whole ton of dollar signs.