Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Former Republican House Speaker John Boehner announced the National Cannabis Roundtable Friday, a lobby group aimed at getting federal restrictions removed for marijuana growth and use.
Boehner, who was House speaker from 2011 to 2015, will serve a chair of the roundtable that represents legal marijuana businesses in 23 states and the District of Columbia, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The former congressman from suburban Cincinnati, a Catholic social conservative, became a player in the industry last April when he joined the board of Acreage Holdings, one of the largest U.S. cannabis companies. Acreage Holdings is one of the founding members of the roundtable.
Boehner said he will act as an adviser for the roundtable and not a registered lobbyist. He opposed legalized marijuana when he served in Congress, but said his "thinking on cannabis has evolved since."
"As the cannabis industry grows and matures, it's vital that we work together for a common-sense legal framework for cannabis policy," Boehner said in a statement, The Hill reported.
The biggest challenge for Boehner and the roundtable will be getting legislation passed to remove cannabis as a Schedule I drug from the U.S. Controlled Substances Act. Federal law makes difficult to access banking and other services since it remains illegal. Business cannot deduct expenses related to the marijuana business because of the designation, as well.
"It would clearly be a big goal, but I think there are other steps that need to be taken along the way before we get to that,'' Boehner said of the law.
Despite those challenges, 10 states and the District of Columbia have defied federal law and passed legislation legalizing recreational use, including California. In all, 33 states have passed laws approving at least some use of marijuana for medical use, according to Governing magazine.