From half a block away I could tell something was bothering my friend K.C. The closer he came, the more animated he got.

“What are they thinking?” he asked when we met in front of Des Moines University.

“Who?” I said.

“State government,” he replied.

“Well,” I responded, “maybe they really don’t care about clean water. You know the old saying about hog manure smelling like money.”

“I’m not talking about water,” he grumbled. “And who wants money that smells like …”

He didn’t finish the sentence.

“If you mean the Iowa Department of Transportation and its one-size-fits-all approach to transportation,” I began.

He cut me off.

“All the DOT cares about is concrete and big bridges,” he said.

“I assume education is another sore point,” I said.

“It is,” he replied. “How are Iowa’s public schools going to keep pace with the 21st century when their funding barely keeps pace with inflation?

“But that’s not what I’m talking about,” K.C. continued. “I’m talking about marijuana, cannabis, hemp – call it whatever you want.

“It’s such an obvious solution to so many of Iowa’s problems, but nobody is talking about it. Nobody is thinking it through. All they do is jabber about small-scale stuff that doesn’t amount to diddly.

“Did you see the article in the Sunday paper a couple of weeks ago?” he said. “It underscored what a joke Iowa’s medical marijuana effort is.”

“It is a joke,” I agreed. “The Legislature passed a bare minimum law for medical marijuana last year, and Gov. Kim Reynolds vetoed it.

“She only does stuff that she can relate to personally,” K.C. grumbled. “Apparently, she’s never had a close friend or relative who benefited from medical marijuana. Either that or she’s like Joe Biden and still thinks marijuana is a gateway drug for cocaine, even though there’s not a shred of evidence.

“Besides, people who want to use marijuana for medicinal purposes don’t want to get high, and they couldn’t anyway because there’s not enough wacky juice in the medical stuff.

“Iowa needs to look at the big picture,” he continued. “Look at the trend lines. Look at where we will be 20 years from now.

“Farmers always talk about the need for a third commodity crop. They need something they can plant alongside corn and soybeans that will consistently make money.

“Hemp is that crop. Iowa farmers grew a lot of it during World War II to make rope and other stuff. But after the war we freaked out and worried that it might make us high, like the weed grown down south. The irony is that no one ever got high off Iowa hemp.

“We’re way behind the curve,” K.C. said. “Cannabis is already a $7 billion industry in Canada, and they say that sales here could easily ramp up to $80 billion a year.

“Heck, equipment makers in Holland are already creating the in-field technology. There’s a Dutch company that’s developed a cannabis-harvesting attachment that works on John Deere combines. It divides the harvest into stems and leaves and seeds before the crop even leaves the field.

“The point is that legalization is already producing huge profits and tax windfalls in states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon, and it could here, too.

“If we are serious about clean water, or 21st-century transportation, or improving education in Iowa, we’ll legalize marijuana and tax the heck out of it.

“It could even help cool the planet by helping sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

“But we’ll never know,” he said as he turned to walk away, “because our state leaders have no vision.”