Former House Speaker John Boehner is flipping his position on marijuana and joining the advisory board of a cannabis company selling legal weed in 11 states.
Boehner, along with former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, joined the advisory board of Acreage Holdings Wednesday, which oversees operations for marijuana cultivation, processing and dispensing throughout the country including in California, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts and Florida. Boehner, who historically opposed marijuana legalization, said his “thinking on cannabis has evolved,” in a statement Wednesday.
The national opioid crisis and poor veteran access to alternative pain treatments are fueling Boehner’s interest in the legalization issue. “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,” he said Wednesday.
“We need to look no further than our nation’s 20 million veterans, 20 percent of whom, according to a 2017 American Legion survey, reportedly use cannabis to self-treat PTSD, chronic pain and other ailments,” Boehner and Weld said in a joint statement Wednesday. “Yet the VA does not allow its doctors to recommend its usage. There are numerous other patient groups in America whose quality of life has been dramatically improved by the state-sanctioned use of medical cannabis.”
Recreational cannabis is legal in nine states and medical cannabis is legal in 29 states and Washington, D.C. Marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug alongside heroin, however, prevents federal funding of meaningful research into the health applications of cannabis. Despite disagreement at the federal level, roughly 64 percent of Americans support full legalization of marijuana, reported Bloomberg.
Boehner and Weld also noted “the ambiguity around financial services” for businesses dealing in the legal weed industry. Most banks simply do not want to risk running afoul of federal law by engaging with a marijuana operation.
As for marijuana’s potential role in reducing opioid abuse, a study published April 2017 in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence found in states with legal weed hospital visits for complications from prescription painkillers are dropping. The hospitalization rate for opioid abuse and dependence in states with medical marijuana are roughly 23 percent lower than states without legal access.
Emergency room visits for opioid overdoses are on average 13 percent lower than states without medical marijuana programs.
Medical researchers do not claim pot will “solve” the opioid epidemic, but the study adds to a growing body of evidence that marijuana can be an effective alternative to the painkillers that often lead to heroin abuse and death.
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