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John Boehner Joins Investment Firm That Backs A Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Connecticut

John Boehner, the former U.S. Speaker of the House, has signed onto a cannabis investment group with holdings at a Connecticut dispensary.

Boehner joined Acreage Holdings, an investment group led by Kevin Murphy, who owns a home in Madison. Murphy’s group has backed marijuana dispensaries and cultivators in 11 states, including Prime Wellness of Connecticut, a South Windsor dispensary that was the first to open in Connecticut.

Joining Boehner in an advisory role on Acreage’s board is former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. In a joint statement, Boehner and Weld said that “while we come at this issue from different perspectives and track records, we both believe the time has come for serious consideration of a shift in federal marijuana policy."

As House speaker, Boehner, an Ohio Republican, was strongly opposed to marijuana’s declassification as a federal Schedule I drug. Though cannabis is legal for medicinal and even recreational use in some states, it is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government.

On Wednesday, Boehner said he’d been swayed by seeing the relief medical marijuana offered to some veterans struggling with PTSD and chronic pain. Boehner and Weld said the federal government’s insistence on treating marijuana as a dangerous, easily abused drug has hampered research and restricted access through channels overseen by the federal government, like the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs. Veterans cannot be prescribed medical marijuana by doctors from the VA.

Saying his “thinking on cannabis has evolved,” Boehner wrote in a Wednesdya morning tweet that he’s now “convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities.”

Some longtime advocates were skeptical of Boehner’s professed “seen the light” moment. Sam Tracy, political director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Connecticut, said Boehner “blocked progress then, and [is] cashing in now.”

“Too bad you didn’t evolve your views on cannabis while you were Speaker of the House and could have actually done something about our terrible marijuana laws,” Tracy wrote in a tweet.

Weld, a former Republican who signed on as libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s running mate in 2016, backed medical marijuana when he was governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997.

Twenty states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes. A further nine states and the District of Columbia allow its recreational use.

Connecticut has nine medical marijuana dispensaries and four producers, with plans to license between three to 10 more dispensaries. The number of medical marijuana patients has soared from around the 2,000 at the program’s onset in 2014 to more than 25,000 today. The General Assembly is weighing whether to legalize recreational marijuana; last week, a bill proposing a regulatory apparatus for recreational marijuana was voted out of committee, the first time in state legislature history that a recreational marijuana bill is fated for full consideration.

Murphy, Acreage’s founder and CEO, first invested in a Maine medical marijuana dispensary in 2012, according to his company’s website. He founded his investment group — called High Street Capital Partners at the time — in 2014, which rebranded itself in 2017 as Acreage Holdings.

In a January interview with Green Market Report, a cannabis-specific publication, Murphy said he expects to “see massive consolidation in this business.”

“We will be on that podium,” he said, “and that is a fact.”

Murphy told Green Market Report he expects his group’s revenues to approach $130 million this year. Acreage’s model is one of vertical integration — with a portfolio of producers, processors and dispensaries, Acreage has control over how its products are grown, processed and sold.

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