Former Republican House Speaker John Boehner has undergone a strange transformation in recent years. Once one of the most outspoken lawmakers "unalterably opposed" to the legalization of marijuana, Boehner spoke at South by Southwest with Kevin Murphy, founder and CEO of Canadian marijuana investment business Acreage Holdings, and CNBC's Tim Seymour, who moderated the conversation.
Boehner now operates his own lobbying organization that calls for “changing federal law to acknowledge states' rights to regulate and manage cannabis policy," the Daily Beast reports.
And he doesn't seem to realize how shocking his complete 180-degree turn is to almost everyone.
“I’d really never thought much about it,” he said about how his reputation of conservatism appears to conflict with his newfound passion for the marijuana industry. “Yes, it was quite a shock to a lot of people. They all tease me about it, but it doesn’t matter.”
Boehner cites a conversation with a wounded veteran who found relief in the use of medical marijuana as an important driver for his new stance. His prediction that marijuana businesses would see "exponential growth" may also have something to do with his new revelations. Boehner sits on the board of Acreage Holdings.
He argues that since 33 states have legalized the substance, Washington should implement legalization on a national scale as well.
“Washington has just been in the way,” he said. “And they need to get the hell out of the way.”
The former Ohio representative opposed amendments that would have blocked the Justice Department from charging people using or supplying medical marijuana in both 2005 and 2007. And in 2014, he declined to cast a vote for an amendment that would have forbidden states from punishing financial institutions for working with marijuana businesses.