Former Speaker reverses stance, supports medical cannabis for vets

Matt Saintsing
April 11, 2018 - 10:57 am

Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA

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Former Speaker of the House John Boehner came out in support of medical marijuana Wednesday, in part, due to the possible helpful effects it can have for veterans suffering from a myriad of service-connected ailments.

Boehner was vehemently anti-marijuana when he served in Congress, but that changed Wednesday when he announced he was joining the board of advisors of Acreage Holdings, a leading marijuana growing and dispensing company.

His viewed have “evolved” in recent years and in a statement he called for “a shift in federal marijuana policy.”

“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 post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and other ailments,” said Boehner.

“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.”

Boehner’s support makes him the highest ranking former government official to advocate changes in federal marijuana policy.

One of the biggest obstacles inhibiting cannabis research, Boehner says, is the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, a group usually reserved for substances that are highly addictive and pose no medical benefit.

29 states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws on the books, but the substance is still illegal under federal law. That puts VA doctors in a position where they can't prescribe or recommend it with their patients. However, last year the VA issued a new directive stating VA physicians may discuss marijuana use with vets who receive VA care. 

A survey comissioned by the American Legion last year found that more tha 90 percent of all veterans support expanding research into medical marijuana. 

Boehner hopes his worh with Acerage will "help transform the debate, policy and landscape around this issue."