John A. Boehner, the speaker of the House from 2011 to 2015, reversed a long-held stance against marijuana legalization on Wednesday, saying on Twitter that “my thinking on cannabis has evolved.”
Mr. Boehner, a Republican leader who in 2011 told a constituent he was “unalterably opposed” to legalization, joined the board of advisers of Acreage Holdings, a cannabis corporation that operates in 11 states.
It may be just a change of heart or seeing what benefits it can do to a state and the country overall, from Mr. Boehner but a change is coming down the pipeline. More politicians and people in power position have shifted their views on supporting the movement.
In a statement, he and William F. Weld, the former Massachusetts governor, who also joined the Acreage Holdings board, said “the time has come for serious consideration of a shift in federal marijuana policy.”
“I’m convinced de-scheduling the drug is needed so we can do research, help our veterans, and reverse the opioid epidemic ravaging our communities,” Mr. Boehner wrote on Twitter, referring to how the federal government classifies marijuana.
The statement was no surprise in the case of Mr. Weld, a supporter of legalization who ran on the Libertarian Party’s ticket in 2016 with Gary Johnson, a former New Mexico governor.
But it was a dramatic U-turn for Mr. Boehner, of Ohio, who had been considered no friend of marijuana advocates while in office. His only vote on legalization came in 1999, when he voted to prohibit medical marijuanain Washington.
Erik Altieri, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a pro-marijuana advocacy organization, said Mr. Boehner had opposed “even the mildest of marijuana law reforms.”
“He’s really just a sign of the times in terms of where the American public is going,” Mr. Altieri said.
About 61 percent of Americans said marijuana should be legalized in a Pew Research Center survey from October, compared with 31 percent in 2000. A Gallup poll from October revealed similar results, with 64 percent saying they supported legalization.
While 69 percent of Democrats supported legalization in the Pew survey, just 43 percent of Republicans did. In the Gallup poll, 72 percent of Democrats supported legal marijuana, compared with 51 percent of Republicans.
Mr. Altieri said Mr. Boehner could have more credibility among opponents, able to meet them where they are. And he said it would be crucial for Republican leaders to take charge of the issue, considering the party’s control of the federal government and numerous state capitols.