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:
August 16, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
“Don’t Be Stupid, Be a Smarty”: Why Anti-Authoritarian Doctors Are So Rare
W. T. Whitney
New Facebook Alliance Endangers Access to News about Latin America
Sam Husseini
The Trump-Media Logrolling
Ramzy Baroud
Mission Accomplished: Why Solidarity Boats to Gaza Succeed Despite Failing to Break the Siege
Larry Atkins
Why Parkland Students, Not Trump, Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize
William Hartung
Donald Trump, Gunrunner for Hire
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Morality Tales in US Public Life?
Yves Engler
Will Trudeau Stand Up to Mohammad bin Salman?
Vijay Prashad
Samir Amin: Death of a Marxist
Binoy Kampmark
Boris Johnson and the Exploding Burka
Eric Toussaint
Nicaragua: The Evolution of the Government of President Daniel Ortega Since 2007 
Adolf Alzuphar
Days of Sagebrush, Nights of Jasmine in LA
Robert J. Burrowes
A Last Ditch Strategy to Fight for Human Survival
August 15, 2018
Jason Hirthler
Russiagate and the Men with Glass Eyes
Paul Street
Omarosa’s Book Tour vs. Forty More Murdered Yemeni Children
Charles Pierson
Is Bankruptcy in Your Future?
George Ochenski
The Absolute Futility of ‘Global Dominance’ in the 21st Century
Gary Olson
Are We Governed by Secondary Psychopaths
Fred Guerin
On News, Fake News and Donald Trump
Arshad Khan
A Rip Van Winkle President Sleeps as Proof of Man’s Hand in Climate Change Multiplies and Disasters Strike
P. Sainath
The Unsung Heroism of Hausabai
Georgina Downs
Landmark Glyphosate Cancer Ruling Sets a Precedent for All Those Affected by Crop Poisons
Rev. William Alberts
United We Kneel, Divided We Stand
Chris Gilbert
How to Reactivate Chavismo
Kim C. Domenico
A Coffeehouse Hallucination: The Anti-American Dream Dream
August 14, 2018
Daniel Falcone
On Taking on the Mobilized Capitalist Class in Elections: an Interview With Noam Chomsky
Karl Grossman
Turning Space Into a War Zone
Jonah Raskin
“Fuck Wine Grapes, Fuck Wines”: the Coming Napafication of the World
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change Bites Big Business
Alberto Zuppi - Cesar Chelala
Argentina at a Crossroads
Chris Wright
On “Bullshit Jobs”
Rosita A. Sweetman
Dear Jorge: On the Pope’s Visit to Ireland
Binoy Kampmark
Authoritarian Revocations: Australia, Terrorism and Citizenship
Sara Johnson
The Incredible Benefits of Sagebrush and Juniper in the West
Martin Billheimer
White & Red Aunts, Capital Gains and Anarchy
Walter Clemens
Enough Already! Donald J. Trump Resignation Speech
August 13, 2018
Michael Colby
Migrant Injustice: Ben & Jerry’s Farmworker Exploitation
John Davis
California: Waging War on Wildfire
Alex Strauss
Chasing Shadows: Socialism Won’t Go Away Because It is Capitalism’s Antithesis 
Kathy Kelly
U.S. is Complicit in Child Slaughter in Yemen
Fran Shor
The Distemper of White Spite
Chad Hanson
We Know How to Protect Homes From Wildfires. Logging Isn’t the Way to Do It
Faisal Khan
Nawaz Sharif: Has Pakistan’s Houdini Finally Met his End?
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Versus Journalism: the Travails of Fourth Estate
Wim Laven
Honestly Looking at Family Values
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail