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The Street
The Street
Tony Owusu

Surprising Names Join the Cannabis Cause as Attitudes Mellow

In general the political divide over marijuana legislation has featured Republicans opposing more liberal policies while Democrats advocate for, or at least pay lip service to, legalization and decriminalization. 

But the political spectrum is anything but static, and attitudes on the right are shifting despite decades of anti-cannabis rhetoric.

A new poll by the National Cannabis Roundtable found that "there's been a massive shift in opinion, and it's evidently clear that Republicans have extremely positive attitudes toward legal cannabis," said former Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, who is now a National Cannabis Roundtable (NCR) board member. 

The poll, which was conducted by top Republican and Trump pollster Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, founded that 73% of Republicans agree that legal cannabis businesses should have the same rights as other legal businesses, and 76% believe that if a state legalizes cannabis, the federal government should not fight the state. 

"We’ll likely see support for legal cannabis continue to increase this November when Republicans in at least a half dozen states and counties vote on legalization and other issues," Gardner said. "Which is why it’s time for Congress to enact commonsense cannabis reform this year, starting with key pieces of legislation like SAFE Banking and CLIMB.”

Shifting Attitudes

Gardner isn't the first Republican politician to make the jump from Capitol Hill to the cannabis industry. 

John Boehner famously opposed marijuana legislation while he was the Republican Speaker of the House, saying that he was "unalterably opposed" to legalizing marijuana. 

That may have been before he realized how much money was in the industry. These days he is very pro-cannabis as a member of Acreage Holdings  (ACRHF)  board. The New York Times reported his payday could reach as high as $20 million. if Congress ever legalizes cannabis at the federal level.

After leaving office, Boehner went on to join Acreage and became the honorary chair of the National Cannabis Roundtable, that organization that conducted the poll above, in February 2019.

Boehner is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with Washington lobbyist James Pericola who claims that the former congressman went back on a deal to create a cannabis industry lobbying project and instead took ideas from their meeting for his own projects. 

Boehner's side asked the D.C. Superior Court to toss out the lawsuit that was filed in May, saying that the ideas discussed in the meeting were not trade secrets and "have been publicly raised for well over a decade," Reuters reported

Cannabis Is Big Business

Boehner isn't the only former GOP politician to make the jump to an industry he stringently opposed while he was in a position to make a positive difference. 

Boehner "sees an investment opportunity in cannabis," Terry Holt, an NCR spokesman, told the Times. "Who wouldn't want to be involved?"

Boehner told NBC News that his new position in marijuana is not purely profit motivated.

"No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No," Boehner told a reporter when questioned about his motives. "I just kind of found myself, like a lot of Americans beginning to look at this differently as the states began to approve this one after another."

The revolving door on K Street that sees former politicians get cushy jobs as lobbyists once they are no longer electable has been busy. 

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and former Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) were both appointed to the board of New York cannabis company Northern Swan Holdings, despite never advancing a marijuana bill during their time  as elected officials. 

Well Crowley did, once he faced a primary challenge from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who ousted the long-time politician. 

Former Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and former Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) have also made the jump from Capitol Hill to marijuana lobbyist on K Street, according to Politico

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