On Friday, former House Speaker John Boehner announced the launch of The National Cannabis Roundtable, an industry-funded lobbying group for the legalized marijuana sector. Boehner, a lifelong Republican from Ohio spent his career opposing cannabis reform as a “law-and-order” candidate until last year, when he joined the board of Acreage Holdings (OTCMKTS:ACRGF), stating that his "thinking on cannabis has evolved.''
The former speaker will chair the new group, which will represent 23 states and the District of Columbia, including Boehner’s own Acreage Holdings.
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“National Cannabis Roundtable… will lead the drive for common sense cannabis law,” Boehner tweeted on Friday. “Pleased to be honorary chair of an industry effort to transform and modernize national cannabis policy and ensure it is done safely, thoughtfully, comprehensively.”
The new lobbying group seeks to lift federal restrictions from medical marijuana research while opening up traditional banking and other business opportunities for the legal cannabis industry. It’s a call that comes just as the new Democratic Congress aims to revive cannabis banking legislation with the SAFE Banking Act.
Tax code issues and a complete overhaul of cannabis legislation at the federal level are also top priorities for The National Cannabis Roundtable, according to Boehner. He called removing cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act the group’s top priority.
"It would clearly be a big goal, but I think there are other steps that need to be taken along the way before we get to that,'' he said according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
In a recent interview, Acreage Holdings CEO Kevin Murphy was hopeful that cannabis legalization would happen this year, through the much-discussed STATES Act. It’s a bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. Cory Gardener of Colorado and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Despite Murphy’s insistence that the bill could pass, it’s already been shot down once in the Senate.
"I believe 2019 is going to be the year," Murphy said at the World Economic Forum at Davos earlier this year. "I believe that it's going to take place through the STATES Act."
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"From our vantage point it's very straightforward and we couldn't be more pleased to be leading as the largest player in the United States," he added.
Still, while Murphy may be pushing the STATES Act a bit too hard, there are signs that this Congress is pushing cannabis reform harder than ever before.
“Every day that goes by, members are learning more about this and learning more from their own constituents about how the federal government continues to stand in the way,” Boehner said, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.