It’s no surprise that politicians engage in some shady business, and one of the (unsurprising) drawbacks of legalization is politics. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner (R) recently backed out of a deal to join a marijuana lobbying group. An ongoing lawsuit alleges, however, that to do this, Boehner stole their data and talking points. The lawsuit claims that by doing so, Boehner was able to form another, competitive pro-weed lobbying outfit and rake in “unjust” profits estimated to be in the millions.
Performative Activism Or Genuine Progress?
John Boehner is not a cannabis advocate, and his long tenure in politics was marked by anti-marijuana policy. In 1999 he voted to prohibit medicinal marijuana in Washington, D.C, and in 2011, he wrote a constituent to say he was “unalterably opposed to the legalization of marijuana.”
This is why his change of pace after retirement came as a shock to politicians and potheads alike. Famous cannabis icons Cheech and Chong claimed that pot was “over,” after Boehner made his stance clear at SXSW in Texas, 2019.
He claimed his change of heart was inspired by discussions with veterans who use marijuana to ease symptoms of PTSD. He also allegedly believes that allowing states power to legislate cannabis usage aligns with conservative values. His softened stance on cannabis, however, may have come from elsewhere.
Uncovering The Truth
In March 2018 Boehner signed on to become co-chair of the 10 Campaign — a weed legalization group. In February 2019, though, Boehner announced the launch of the National Cannabis Roundtable alongside former health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
10 Campaign’s founder and executive director, James Pericola, alleges that Boehner’s group cut him out of profits despite it being nothing more than a “repackaged version” of his own.
“Boehner served to legitimize the industry … and paved the way for other politicians, elected officials, and influencers to come to the table after years of opposition to cannabis legislation,” the suit claims. “And he did it by intentionally misleading Pericola.”
The lawsuit alleges that Boehner misled the plaintiffs, and Pericola is seeking damages that include Boehner’s alleged “unjust enrichment” from cannabis-related fees. In an exclusive interview with the New York Post, Pericola explains that Boehner was intentionally selected by 10 Campaign to act as a liaison between pro-cannabis groups and the conservative opposition. He alleges that he began sending the firm representing Boehner proprietary materials after the parties signed non-disclosure agreements; the 10 campaign provided conservative-friendly talking points as well as polling data demonstrating American approval for legalization.
However, soon after Boehner signed a deal with Acreage Holdings, an early investor in marijuana. Pericola claims that he tried to move forward despite this, but received pushback from both Boehner and his representative firm, Squire Patton Boggs. Acreage onboarded Boehner with the intention of creating a political ally: Boehner and his lobbying group were meant to convince conservative policymakers to legalize cannabis at a federal level. Canadian company Canopy Growth planned to buy Acreage on the condition that cannabis was legalized as early as 2019, but this buyout, according to a Canopy Growth source, was conditional on Boehner’s success in lobbying.
This buyout stood to net Boehner a minimum of $20 million, and the NCR was his golden ticket to a massive payday. Despite happening over two years ago, the 10 Campaign is only now choosing to sue. Boehner and his team have declined to comment on the ongoing suit.
In the meantime, Boehner’s media releases had borne eerie similarities to the proprietary material distributed by Pericola. It seems then, that the success earned by Boehner’s pro-cannabis campaigns could be in part due to Pericola and 10 Campaign’s efforts. If the allegations prove true, this could become a huge mess for Boehner and Acreage Holdings as well.
Boehner seems to only be interested in making a quick buck off the backs of people working tirelessly to legalize and decriminalize cannabis, and at Beard Bros Pharma, we think there’s no room for political BS in our industry.
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