Seeing green: Hoffman eyes local medical marijuana outfit, but not everyone is on board

BJ Hoffman (pictured), a Grundy Center native and current Republican Hardin County Supervisor, is in the process of applying to become the first cultivator of medical cannabis in Iowa after the state changed its law to allow production during the 2017 legislative session. (Robert Maharry/The Grundy Register photo) 

Upon entering BJ Hoffman’s farm home between Whitten and Liscomb, you won’t find any tie-dye shirts, Grateful Dead and Bob Marley albums on vinyl or uniquely shaped glassware. In fact, the Grundy Center native and current Republican Hardin County Supervisor says that he’s never smoked pot in his life.

           

But in light of a recent law change, Hoffman, a certified EMT and the owner of a barbecue catering company, has his sights set on making a name as an entrepreneur in the nascent medical marijuana industry here: he’s in the process of applying to become the first legally operating cultivator in the state under the moniker Iowa Releaf, and as he’s already learning, it may not be easy.

 

Now, he’ll have to establish a viable business plan, pay a total of $17,500 in fees just to get it off the ground and overcome the doubts of those on both sides of the political aisle who wonder whether his newfound interest comes from a heartfelt place or a desire to make a quick buck in a pocket of the state not known for sympathetic views on the issue.

 

Hoffman, however, doesn’t see it that way at all: he points to a photo of his maternal grandparents, John and Dorothy Yantis, who lived on the same farm and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, and makes it quite clear that his mission is to assist sick individuals regardless of the bottom line at the end of the day.

 

“What is the price of human dignity? What’s the profit margin? What profit has to be made to help these people?” he asked.

 

Reefer madness

 

The roots of anti-marijuana sentiment date back to well before Hoffman was even born, from the notorious school propaganda films of the 1930s to the Vietnam War three decades later. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt banned cannabis federally in 1937, and the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 classified it as a Schedule I drug, which indicates “a high potential for abuse, with no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, [and a] lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”

 

“There was a second wave during the Nixon administration to demonize it as being a subversive thing and connect it to being unpatriotic. It was associated with war protestors, and that was associated with being unpatriotic,” said Carl Olsen, the founder of Iowans for Medical Marijuana.

 

And despite a sea change in public opinion over the last 20 years, the fact remains that the substance is illegal as established in U.S. vs. Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative (2001), a Supreme Court decision that prohibits its manufacturing, distribution or possession for “any claimed medical use” regardless of state laws to the contrary. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a Trump appointee, has pledged to crack down on legal marijuana, both recreational and medical, in stark contrast to the more hands-off approach of his predecessors Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch. 

 

Read the full story in this week's Grundy Register. Subscribe by calling (319) 824-6958 or clicking here.