FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem

The former Speaker of House, John Boehner, and former Massachusetts Governor, Bill Weld, were added to the Board of Advisors for Acreage Holdings, an investment company heavily involved in the legal cannabis industry.

This pair of former conservative leaders will certainly help to bring bipartisan support for the pro-legalization movement. They’re also part of an emerging trend of conservative revolving door lobbyists working on behalf of the legal marijuana industry.

Last September, the former three-term Republican Senator from New York, Al D’Amato, wrote an op-ed for the Daily News in support of a state medical marijuana bill. It was titled, “My epiphany on medical marijuana: Sen. Al D’Amato explains why he came around on pot policy.” At the end of his piece, there was a disclosure that D’Amato is a “paid senior advisor” for the Marijuana Policy Project of New York.

He wrote a similar op-ed in 2014 in the Long Island Herald not long after signing a $15,000 per month lobbying contract with two cannabis-related companies. The co-founder of one of those companies, Richard Yost, noted that $200,000 was budgeted for the full year. He told Newsday, “It’s a Republican issue in the Senate, and Park Strategies has a strong relationship on that side.”It’s this kind of influence peddling that is ruining our political system.

These men’s views on cannabis may have genuinely shifted over the years, but it’s very convenient (and lucrative) to now be lobbying on behalf of the right side of history. John Boehner recently claimed that his position on marijuana “evolved,” but he had a 0% rating from the pro-marijuana legalization group, NORML, before leaving office. He was also the leading recipient of donations from the tobacco industry, which has aggressively lobbied against marijuana legalization.

Al D’Amato was also one of the largest recipients of special interest money from the groups that have opposed marijuana legalization. In particular, he was once the top benefactor of the alcoholindustry and the third-highest recipient of donations from big pharma.

In fact, D’Amato built his political brand by being a “drug warrior.” He literally conducted a publicity stunt by doing an undercover crack cocaine buy with Rudy Giuliani, who was wearing a Hells Angels leather jacket. D’Amato was so adamant in his “tough on crime” stance that he advocated for the death penalty for drug traffickers. Suffice it to say, D’Amato was an integral part of the Just Say No era that essentially conflated cannabis with more harmful drugs and stigmatized this issue in the minds of Middle American voters.

With that said, everyone is entitled to change their opinion on a political topic. Of this group, only Bill Weld’s change-of-heart appears to be genuine. He was a fairly firm supporter of drug laws during his time as Governor in the 90s. However, he adamantly campaigned in 2016 for legalization as a Vice Presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party.

That was a popular stance with most Americans. In fact, for the first time, a recent Gallup poll found that the majority of Republicans (51%) now support legalized marijuana. The overall level of support among the full national electorate is at a record level of 64%.

That means that there’s a pronounced dichotomy between public opinion and the actual state of affairs. For instance, there are two proposals in the Senate to legalize marijuana, Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act and Ron Wyden’s Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act. But, both bills have an estimated 1-2% chance of being passed, according to analytics forecasting group Skopos Labs.

Obviously, special interest groups are the main culprits for why the progress with cannabis legislation has been a slow process. Hence, it’s a positive development to have former political leaders fighting on behalf of reforming marijuana laws, but it also shines a light on the unscrupulous nature of our political system.

There are now 428 former members of Congress working as professional lobbyists. This “revolving door” is an inherently corrupt system that exploits legislative loopholes. Politicians also stand to make much more money after leaving office as a professional lobbyist, which creates rampant conflicts of interest for these elected officials while in office.

One of the main reasons that the pro-legalization message is gaining some traction on Capitol Hill is that it represents a thriving industry that is projected to gross $37.3 billion by 2024. Therefore, it now has a small seat at the table.

For decades, the marijuana legalization movement was essentially devoid of corporate financing. Hence, the change in every state with legal recreational marijuana came about via ballot measures, not the state legislatures (excluding New Hampshire).

Eventually, the marijuana industry will be fully legalized, but not until it has enough resources to counter the special interests of its opponents. In the end, marijuana reform will be a positive development for our country. More important, it will hopefully illustrate the necessary reforms that are necessary for our entire political system.

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
Jon Rynn
What a Green New Deal Should Look Like: Filling in the Details
David Swanson
Will the U.S. Senate Let the People of Yemen Live?
Dana E. Abizaid
On Candace Owens’s Praise of Hitler
Raouf Halaby
‘Tiz Kosher for Elected Jewish U.S. Officials to Malign
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Deceitful God-Talk at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast
W. T. Whitney
Caribbean Crosswinds: Revolutionary Turmoil and Social Change 
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Avoiding Authoritarian Socialism
Howard Lisnoff
Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Anti-immigrant Hate
Ralph Nader
The Realized Temptations of NPR and PBS
Cindy Garcia
Trump Pledged to Protect Families, Then He Deported My Husband
Thomas Knapp
Judicial Secrecy: Where Justice Goes to Die
Louis Proyect
The Revolutionary Films of Raymundo Gleyzer
Sarah Anderson
If You Hate Campaign Season, Blame Money in Politics
Victor Grossman
Contrary Creatures
Tamara Pearson
Children Battling Unhealthy Body Images Need a Different Narrative About Beauty
Peter Knutson
The Salmon Wars in the Pacific Northwest: Banning the Rough Customer
Binoy Kampmark
Means of Control: Russia’s Attempt to Hive Off the Internet
Robert Koehler
The Music That’s in All of Us
Norah Vawter
The Kids Might Save Us
Tracey L. Rogers
Freedom for All Begins With Freedom for the Most Marginalized
Paul Armentano
Marijuana Can Help Fight Opioid Abuse
Tom Clifford
Britain’s Return to the South China Sea
Graham Peebles
Young People Lead the Charge to Change the World
Matthew Stevenson
A Pacific Odyssey: Around General MacArthur’s Manila Stage Set
Jill Richardson
Suddenly, It’s Completely Normal for Women to Run for President
B. R. Gowani
Starbucks Guy Comes Out to Preserve Billionaire Species
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail