Marijuana reformers just won themselves an unexpected ally: former speaker of the House John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio.
On Wednesday morning, Boehner tweeted, “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.”
Descheduling marijuana would remove it from the strict regulatory standards set by the Controlled Substances Act, the blueprint for much of US drug policy. This would not fully legalize pot across the US, but it could allow states to carry out marijuana reform — from decriminalization to medical legalization to outright legalization — without the threat of federal interference.
Boehner linked to a press release from Acreage Holdings announcing both he and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who was the Libertarian candidate for vice president in 2016, are joining the company’s board of advisers. The company focuses on setting up marijuana businesses across the country.
This is a big shift from seven years ago, when Boehner said he is “unalterably opposed” to marijuana legalization.
“Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically,” Boehner told Bloomberg. “I find myself in that same position.”
Republicans have increasingly come around to marijuana reform
It’s not just Boehner. As he suggested, many Americans — including Republicans — have come around to marijuana reform in recent years.
In fact, according to the latest polling by Gallup, a majority of Republicans now support marijuana legalization. Gallup’s 2017 survey was the first time most Republicans backed legalization.
Marijuana has been legalized for recreational use in nine states and Washington, DC, and it has been legalized for medical purposes in 29 states.
One of the reasons for the growing support may be these experiments with legalization at the state level: Since Colorado became the first state to allow recreational marijuana sales in 2014, the policy has proven to not be the complete disaster opponents of legalization warned it would be (although experts caution it’s still too early to judge the full effects). That has likely driven more Americans to reevaluate their opinions on the issue — so now nearly two-thirds of voters support legalization, including a majority of Republicans.
And now, the marijuana reform movement has Boehner on its side.
For more on marijuana legalization, read Vox’s explainer.