Ari Hoffnung is on a mission to save lives and end pain.
He sees medical cannabis as a crucial part of accomplishing that goal.
Once upon a time, Ari Hoffnung was the Deputy Comptroller of New York City, helping oversee the finances of one of the world's ten largest economies and enforcing the laws on the books.
Now, barely three years later, he is spearheading Vireo Medical, one of the leaders in the drive for medical cannabis legalization in the United States, fighting to change the laws he vigorously defended.
I caught up with Ari to discuss how he navigates this dichotomy, and where he sees New York and the red-hot medical cannabis industry heading over the next half-decade.
Ari explains himself best in his own words, so I have written my questions and his answers below:
1) Do you feel a certain irony?
I do feel a certain irony knowing that I go to work every day knowing I am violating federal law. It is not something I ever thought I would do, and not something I am always comfortable with, but I am so passionate about working with patients who are suffering that I manage, because I believe that the current conflict between federal and state law will be swiftly resolved.
2) How do you apply the skills you learned in government to medical cannabis?
As Deputy Comptroller of New York City, I developed a lot of skills working in government that help me succeed in this in this industry.
First and foremost this is an incredibly regulated industry and our regulator is a state agency the New York Department of Health. I have a strong sense of the internal workings and sensitivities there - what they are care about and are sensitive to when they work with us.
Working in government also gave me a deep appreciation of the deep and often unsung role government plays in daily life, and how to manage that relationship appropriately as a private company.
In terms of the ongoing relationship between government and industry, ours is pretty unique.
3) How can the Federal Government resolve the legal impasse you operate under today and how will this change the industry?
One way to resolve this is to pass a federal law to defer to the states. This may be the most expedient and bipartisan way to resolve the dispute between state and federal law.
I could see that happening in the coming months and years.