Today has already turned out to be a big day for the House Speakership. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the utterly craven, spineless, Trump enabler who currently inhabits the key leadership role has announced he will not run for reelection.
The nation is poorer for the fact that Ryan ever served in public office in the first place, but his pending departure alone already means the future of the country is at least slightly brighter.
The Democrats are running an incredible candidate in Wisconsin’s 1st District and with Ryan’s announcement his chances of winning just skyrocketed. Click here to donate to Randy Bryce, the Representative that the people of Wisconsin deserve.
Now, news about the previous Republican House Speaker, John Boehner, is making less significant but no less interesting waves. Bloomberg reports that Boehner has joined the advisory board for a marijuana firm called Acreage Holdings. He does not yet own a financial stake in the company.
Previously, while in office, Boehner claimed that he was “unalterably opposed” to the legalization of cannabis. The sudden reversal is yet another reminder that the GOP is shot through with hypocrisy to its core. Very few Republican politicians believe in what they profess for moral or practical reasons, but hold positions to win votes and draw in campaign donations.
“Over the last 10 or 15 years, the American people’s attitudes have changed dramatically. I find myself in that same position,” Boehner said. Most Americans do in fact support legalization now.
Boehner, who served as Speaker from 2011 to 2015, had the power to push for sensible drug law reform. The criminalization of marijuana disproportionally affects people of color, feeding the prison-industrial complex. According to the ACLU, black Americans are 3.73 times more likely than white Americans to be arrested for marijuana.
Our deeply broken prison system is full of people whose only crime was having some weed on them. Meanwhile, white people are being celebrated in 2018 for starting “small businesses” growing and selling weed. The injustice in this paradigm has been there for a long time, and it’s a deep stain on Boehner’s record that he didn’t work to combat it while he was still Speaker.
Boehner claims that he has never smoked weed himself and that his opinion on it changed when he saw how it helped a friend deal with chronic pain. He also seems to have just stumbled onto the fact that criminalization destroys communities and unfairly puts people behind bars.
“When you look at the number of people in our state and federal penitentiaries, who are there for possession of small amounts of cannabis, you begin to really scratch your head. We have literally filled up our jails with people who are nonviolent and frankly do not belong there,” Boehner said.
While it’s great that he’s finally come to this crucial realization, it was his responsibility as an elected official to know these statistics and take action to fix the problems. Either he didn’t care enough as Speaker or knew it was politically advantageous for him to oppose legalization.
In many ways, it’s a little too late, but at least he’s on the right side of the issue now. Small, cold comfort for the people who have lost years of their lives and the families who have already been destroyed by these regressive prohibition laws.