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Former HHS secretary Sebelius joins marijuana industry group

Former HHS secretary Sebelius joins marijuana industry group
© Lauren Schneiderman

Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusWorking for lasting change Former HHS secretary Sebelius joins marijuana industry group More than 200 Obama officials sign letter supporting Biden's stimulus plan MORE, a former Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary during the Obama administration, is joining the National Cannabis Roundtable as a co-chair, adding new sway to the lobbying group.

Sebelius is joining former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAre maskless House members scofflaws? Israel, Democrats and the problem of the Middle East Joe Crowley to register as lobbyist for recording artists MORE (R-Ohio) as a leader of the group’s board of directors at a time when advocacy and industry groups are pushing to relax the federal government’s lingering prohibition on marijuana use. Prior to serving as former President Obama’s HHS secretary for five years, she served two terms as the Democratic governor of Kansas. 

Marijuana is already legal for recreational or medical use in dozens of states, though federal law still labels it as a Schedule 1 drug. Sebelius said that efforts to ease restrictions on a federal basis will focus on the economic benefits of regulating sales of the drug, the impact arrests for it have had on communities of color and more.

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“The path forward for cannabis reform in Washington will require a holistic approach. We have to recognize and respond to multiple imperatives: there is an economic side to cannabis, but also a human side. Whether it’s the jobs and revenue potential, the criminal and social justice reform, or the health implications, we need to embrace the human side and keep in mind how policy affects real people,” she said in a press release announcing her hire.

News of her hire comes as advocates press for full legalization of marijuana at the federal level, given that the Democratic Party controls the White House, House and Senate. However, the lifting of all federal prohibitions is unlikely given Democrats’ narrow control of both chambers of Congress and broad GOP opposition to full legalization, making gradual reforms more likely to move forward in Washington.

Sebelius will team up with BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAre maskless House members scofflaws? Israel, Democrats and the problem of the Middle East Joe Crowley to register as lobbyist for recording artists MORE, a Republican who garnered headlines in 2018 when he joined the board of cannabis company Acreage Holdings despite opposing marijuana legalization during his time in Congress.

“Secretary Sebelius will be a great partner in advancing our cause. She understands policy and knows what it takes to make law. We look forward to working together as a team,” the former Speaker said in the press release. 

The National Cannabis Roundtable’s membership is made up of leaders of some of the biggest names in the marijuana industry, including Cresco Labs and Ilera Healthcare.