A couple of weeks ago, John Boehner was dining at one of his favorite Washington haunts, Trattoria Alberto on Barracks Row, when in walked Earl Blumenauer, the Democrat from Oregon known as one of the most fervent advocates for legal marijuana in Congress. In years past, the two men would have had little in common, but earlier that day Boehner announced he was joining the advisory board for Acreage Holdings, one of the largest marijuana corporations in the country. It stunned many in the political world because the former speaker, whose tastes favor merlot and Camel Ultra Lights, had on several occasions spent political capital to defeat legalization measures: In 2014, he supported the Congressional blockade of the District of Columbia’s recreational marijuana program and the next year he opposed efforts to legalize marijuana in his home state of Ohio.
Blumenauer was still so stunned by the turnabout, he couldn’t resist hailing his former adversary, who only a few hours earlier had advocated for marijuana’s full federal decriminalization, or its “de-scheduling,” in the parlance of Capitol Hill.
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“John!” Blumenauer said, greeting the former Speaker warmly, “What happened?”
“Well,” Boehner replied, “my thinking has evolved.”
He’s not the only one. In Washington, evolution on the marijuana issue is proceeding at warp speed in political terms. Boehner is just the latest in a string of noteworthy newcomers to the legalization movement that has been barreling through state houses for the past decade. Just in the past several weeks, Mitch McConnell fast-tracked a Senate bill to legalize low-THC hemp. Chuck Schumer announced that he would introduce a bill to de-schedule marijuana entirely. Colorado Senator Cory Gardner struck a deal with President Donald Trump, who promised to not target Colorado’s legal marijuana industry in exchange for Gardner releasing his hold on