Steve Hoffman, who oversaw the rollout of marijuana legalization in Massachusetts as the first chair of the state Cannabis Control Commission before resigning in April, is returning to the private sector.
In an exclusive interview with the Globe, Hoffman said he has joined the board of EO Care Inc., a Boston-based startup that is preparing to release a software platform connecting medical marijuana patients with cannabis doctors.
“As marijuana becomes more normalized and eventually federally legalized, I think we’ll see the medical community become more engaged,” Hoffman said. “But I’m not optimistic that will happen very quickly, and I think the private sector, in the interim, has an opportunity to bring better science and medical and clinical support to medical marijuana patients.”
The company says its software-and-app package, set to be released next week, will connect subscribed patients to its network of doctors who are authorized to recommend medical marijuana cards. Patients can use the software to record how effectively different doses of different cannabis products treat their symptoms, in turn allowing the physician to recommend adjustments.
The software is intended to encourage ongoing care and communication, replacing the typical, more hands-off arrangement in which patients have an annual consultation with a cannabis doctor but shop on their own for marijuana products at a dispensary without medical guidance.
EO Care isn’t just targeting consumers, though. The firm will also partner with dispensaries to have their medical marijuana products delivered to its subscribers. And the app will collect anonymous data on the medical efficacy of different strains of flower and other marijuana products, which EO executives hope will end up being valuable to hospitals and other health care providers as the drug becomes increasingly integrated into mainstream medicine.
Hoffman, who before his stint on the commission had been an executive at Bain & Co. and other firms, said he has taken on an unusually active role as a member of EO’s board. That includes helping broker partnerships with marijuana operators and even, potentially, insurance companies, which to date have been reluctant to cover medical marijuana expenses because of the federal prohibition on the drug. The position is not paid, Hoffman said, but does grant him equity in the privately held company.
The former official said he felt reluctant to get involved directly with licensed marijuana companies that grow and sell the plant after leaving the commission. Instead, inspired by interactions he had with patients while in public office, Hoffman has focused on ancillary players such as EO Care and similar, yet-to-be-announced projects centered around the medical potential of cannabis.
“My priority is anything that promotes science and clinical involvement in the medical marijuana world,” Hoffman said, “and anything that results in more patients being able to access this wonder drug.”
EO’s board also includes William Van Faasen, the former chairman and chief executive of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and a longtime cannabis investor.
Like Hoffman, Van Faasen believes overwhelming public support — polls suggest more than 90 percent of Americans now think medical marijuana should be legal — will inevitably lead to the drug’s legalization at the federal level. He’s betting EO Care will be ideally positioned to take advantage of that change, providing data and expertise to large health care providers and other institutions that he argues are poorly prepared for the coming explosion of patient interest in cannabis as a substitute for pharmaceutical drugs.
“You’ve got this huge disconnect between the public, which says we ought to have access to cannabis, and a [federal] legal and regulatory structure that prohibits it — but eventually, voters vote,” Van Faasen said in an interview. “There’s going to be a real need to prescribe appropriate cannabis therapy and adjust it over time based on individual reactions, but we don’t have that research or the ability to provide the support and feedback that’s critical to making the therapy work, which is where EO comes in.”
Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect that EO Care’s product is not only an app. The app is part of its overall software platform.
Dan Adams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Adams86.