April 11 (UPI) -- Former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday he's joined the board of a top cannabis company to promote medical marijuana.
Boehner, a Catholic social conservative who once opposed marijuana legalization, said his thinking "has evolved."
"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," Boehner said in a statement.
Acreage Holdings, one of the nation's largest cannabis companies, also added former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld to its board.
In a joint statement, the men said the time has come for serious consideration for a shift in federal marijuana policy.
"Over the past 20 years, a growing number of states have experimented with their right to offer cannabis programs under the protection of the Tenth Amendment," they said. "During that period, those rights have lived somewhat in a state of conflict with federal policy.
"Also, during this period, the public perception of cannabis has dramatically shifted, with 94 percent of Americans currently in favor of some type of access, a shift driven by increased awareness of marijuana's many medical applications."
Boehner and Weld included information about how medical marijuana can help 20 million U.S. military veterans -- that, according to a 2017 American Legion survey, 20 percent of veterans use marijuana to self-treat PTSD, chronic pain and other ailments.
"Yet the VA does not allow its doctors to recommend its usage," they said. "There are numerous other patient groups in America whose quality of life has been dramatically improved by the state-sanctioned use of medical cannabis."
Founded in 2014, Acreage Holdings cultivates, processes and dispenses at marijuana operations in 11 states, according to its website.
Acreage CEO Kevin Murphy said adding Boehner and Weld will change the conversation and help the organization's mission to make marijuana available to patients would benefit from its use.
"These men have shaped the political course of our country for decades and now they will help shape the course of this nascent but ascendant industry," Murphy said.
Boehner, elected to the House in 1990, retired from Congress in 2015 and was succeeded as speaker by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.