It appears that we have reached the “strange bedfellows” portion of the cannabis legalization movement. The politicians – especially those from the party primarily responsible for the absurd state of cannabis laws – are jumping on the bandwagon. Full disclosure: I do not trust any of them, from either party. I think that having guillotines – non-operational, of course, and take the blades out; I’m not a madman – sprinkled here and there throughout the country could serve as an adequate reminder of what can happen when a government’s representatives lose touch with the wants and needs of the population they are supposed to be standing in for. Maybe one in each of the nation’s 10 or 20 largest cities.
The past few weeks, we have seen one fairly surprising development, with Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell petitioning to have hemp removed from the Controlled Substances Act, the 1970 legislation driven by Richard Nixon, cannabis’ archenemy. The CSA is the lynchpin that established the current scheduling system of illegal drugs in the United States and placed cannabis in Schedule I, the most restrictive category. It’s a category that also includes heroin and methamphetamine; precludes both the possibility of scientific research on the plant; the use of any non-drug materials taken from the plant; and logistically destroys the hemp industry. McConnell’s support of any cannabis plant is shocking when coupled with his voting record on marijuana-related legislation. He receives a solid F grade for his record from NORML, and no higher than a D from any other advocacy group I could find. He has previously supported the regulated legalization of hemp, provided its THC content remains under 0.6 percent, a position that makes sense considering his constituency resides in a state that could profit greatly from a rejuvenated hemp industry. His state could really use the boost as the American tobacco industry, formerly a substantial income source for Kentucky, fades.
April’s true case of Thi$ $hock$ Me (Not One $ingle Bit) involves the appointment of retired Republican legislator John Boehner – rhymes with “owner”? – and former Massachusetts governor, William Weld, joining the board of Acreage Holdings, a cannabis investment company operating in 11 states, but not Colorado. Weld’s decision to join Acreage is not overly surprising. He is one of those kooky libertarian types who thinks decisions like whether to use cannabis are best left out of the purview of government regulators. On the other hand, Boner (did I get it right that time?), Speaker of the House from 2011 to 2015, is a dyed-in-the-wool Drug War Warrior, a man who stated in a 2011 letter to one of his Ohio constituents, “I am unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana.” The former Speaker claims to have had a “come to Jah” moment, spurred by his observation of cannabis helping a friend to overcome a back injury – a dubious claim on the surface, but who am I to judge? He did bring a small smile to my lips by pushing for “descheduling,” as opposed to the pabulum that is “rescheduling.” The real twist in this saga, for me, involves the fact that Boehner has long had ties to tobacco corporations, and is a current board member at Reynolds American. Let the monsters feed upon the monsters, I suppose.
This is, at the end of the day, positive news in the overall push for nationwide legalization. Polls show that the American public has changed their collective minds on cannabis over the last decade. Maybe the position change of the guys like McConnell and Boehner are reflective of this. Maybe these are just more political games being played by men who have spent their lives playing such games. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected].