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.
But there remains a stark partisan divide. 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.