WASHINGTON – Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he was “wrong” about marijuana when he opposed legalizing the drug while serving in Congress.
Boehner predicted that national cannabis legalization is going to happen in less than five years.
“That sound bite about being ‘unalterably opposed’ to cannabis is almost a decade old. Back then, like a lot of folks, I was getting faulty information,” Boehner said of his 2011 remark during today’s American Cannabis Summit online seminar organized by the National Institute for Cannabis Investors.
“I realized I was wrong and, let me tell you, I’ve been having more and more meetings with my friends and colleagues on the Hill about this – some of the most conservative politicians around and their views are evolving on cannabis, too, just like the American people,” he added.
Boehner told the story of a veteran he met who turned to cannabis for pain relief.
“One of the turning points for me was when I met this Navy SEAL, honorably served our country for 20 years. He suffered horrible concussions and more concussions and after he got out he kept getting serious migraines, he couldn’t see straight, he couldn’t think straight. The VA prescribed him all these hardcore drugs and he tells me I don’t want all these drugs, I’ve got a wife and kids and I want to be a father. So he refused to take his medication; he was just suffering,” Boehner said.
“Then, he tries cannabis and the migraines vanished,” he added. “I started hearing a lot of stories like this – vets using cannabis to treat their PTSD, depression, chronic pain. It was helping them, so I started researching the industry. Do you know cannabis was a major part of early America? Our founding fathers, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both grew it on their farms.”
In April, Boehner joined Acreage Holdings, which he described as a “fully integrated cannabis firm with dispensaries, cultivation and processing operations in 14 states with three deals pending to take us to 17 states.”
“This is a big phenomenon. Cannabis is here to stay and this industry is only getting bigger,” Boehner said. “Yes, I’m all in. This is the time to go all in on cannabis.”
Boehner said the federal government is “holding back” the marijuana industry in a “serious way” by not legalizing its use.
“Even if nothing changes, our guys are projecting [the industry] will reach a $50 billion mark within 5 years,” he said. “I used to count votes. I know where the votes are, and the votes will be there when the time is right.”
In the past, President Trump has said marijuana policy should be left to the states to decide; Attorney General Jeff Sessions is opposed to legalization. Boehner, a friend of the president, was asked what Trump personally thinks about marijuana legalization nationally.
“If I tell you about our private conversations, I won’t have any more of them with the president,” Boehner said. “What I’m willing to say is, after I came out in favor of cannabis, President Trump said, ‘I agree with Boehner. I think he’s right.’”
Boehner estimated that legalization could result in 1.1 million jobs created over time.
“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when, it’s inevitable, voters want it, the economic benefits are too big to ignore. I’ve got to choose my words carefully. What I’m hearing behind closed doors is pretty sensitive,” he said.
“Let me just say this: I have a strong suspicion we won’t be waiting five years to see the federal government legalize cannabis. When that happens, whenever that happens, our guys are saying the industry will double practically overnight – $100 billion,” he added. “Like I said, practically overnight.”
Danny Brody, vice president of investor relations at The Green Organic Dutchman Holdings, said marijuana could become a $1.1 trillion global industry if the U.S. legalizes the drug because it would affect other industries such as pharmaceuticals, food and agriculture.
“When we get full legalization, you are going to see the floodgates open in these industries and so many more,” he said.