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Caesar Mass. Ex-cannabis joins medical marijuana app startup

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Steve Hoffman, who oversaw the introduction of marijuana legalization in Massachusetts as the first chair of the state’s cannabis control commission before Resigned in Aprilback to the private sector.

In an exclusive interview with The Globe, Hoffman said he joined the board of directors of EO Care Inc. , a Boston-based startup is preparing to launch an app that will connect medical marijuana patients with their doctors.

“As marijuana becomes more normalized and eventually becomes federal legal, I think we will see the medical community become more involved,” Hoffman said. “But I am not optimistic that this will happen very quickly, and I believe that the private sector, in the meantime, has an opportunity to provide better scientific, medical and clinical support to medical marijuana patients.”

The company says its app, due to launch next week, will connect subscribed patients to a network of physicians authorized to recommend medical marijuana cards. Patients can use the software to record how effective different doses of different cannabis products are in treating their symptoms, which in turn allows the doctor to recommend adjustments.

The app is intended to encourage ongoing care and communication, replacing the usual arrangement, in which a patient has an annual consultation with a physician, but shops alone for cannabis products at a dispensary without medical guidance.

However, the EO Care app is not just for consumers. The company will also partner with dispensaries to deliver medical marijuana products to their subscribers. The app will collect anonymous data about the medicinal efficacy of various strains of flowers and other marijuana products, which EO executives hope will become valuable to hospitals and other healthcare providers as the drug becomes increasingly integrated into mainstream medicine.

Hoffman, who prior to taking over as CEO at Bain & Co. and others, he has taken an extraordinarily active role as a member of EO’s board of directors. This includes helping broker partnerships with marijuana operators and even, potentially, insurance companies, which until now have been reluctant to cover medical marijuana expenses due to the federal ban on the drug. Hoffman said the position is unpaid, but it does give him an ownership interest in a private company.

The former official said he felt reluctant to engage directly with licensed marijuana companies that grow and sell the plant after leaving the commission. Instead, inspired by the interactions he had with patients while in the general office, Hoffman focused on additional players such as EO Care and similar yet-to-be-announced projects centered around the medicinal potential of cannabis.

“My priority is anything that advances science and clinical engagement in the medical marijuana world, and anything that results in more patients having access to this wonderful drug,” Hoffman said.

The EO’s board of directors also includes William Van Wassen, former president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and a longtime cannabis investor.

Like Hoffman, Van Wassen believes that overwhelming public support — polls show that more than 90 percent of Americans now believe medical marijuana should be legal — will inevitably lead to the drug’s legalization at the federal level. He’s betting that EO Care will be in an ideal position to take advantage of this change, providing data and expertise to large healthcare providers and other organizations that he argues are ill-prepared for the upcoming explosion of patient interest in cannabis as an alternative to pharmaceutical drugs.

“You have this massive disconnect between the public, which says we have to have access to cannabis, and [federal] “The legal and regulatory structure that prohibits it – but in the end, voters vote,” Van Wassen said in an interview. “There will be a real need to prescribe an appropriate cannabis treatment 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 is so critical to successful treatment, which is where EO comes in.”

Dan Adams can be reached in daniel.adams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed.

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