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Connecticut Appoints Ombudsman For Medical Marijuana Patients, First In Nation

HARTFORD, CT – The state of Connecticut has hired an ombudsman to advocate on behalf of medical cannabis patients, according to the Connecticut Insider.

Erin Gorman Kirk of Norwalk was named to the position, which is reported to be the first of its kind in the United States.  The state’s General Assembly established the Office of the Cannabis Ombudsman on July 1, 2023, and a search involving over 800 applications led to the hiring of Kirk.

Kirk, a lawyer, consumer advocate and a medical marijuana patient herself, will be responsible for monitoring the palliative use of marijuana, the medical cannabis system and looking after the interests of qualifying patients and caregivers.

She said that she intends to be a “vigilant guardian of patient interests, making sure that every decision and action taken by producers aligns with the highest standards of care and compassion.”

Since recreational adult-use of marijuana became legal in Connecticut, total sales of medical cannabis and the number of patients registered to use it have declined.  Kirk said this trend adds to the need for an advocate to represent the interests of cannabis patients.

“We will not only monitor, but actively engage with all stakeholders to improve the palliative marijuana market, making Connecticut a model state for patient advocacy in the cannabis sector,” she said.

One of her areas of focus, she told WSHU, will be making sure products are clearly labeled to give cannabis patients the most accurate information.

“You can do whatever you want as a producer, but tell people, give them as patients in particular… They should have that knowledge,” she said. “They should know what they are consuming. And the prices are extremely high here, so let’s know what we’re paying exorbitant prices for”.

Louis Rinaldi, an advocate for medical marijuana patients who testified before the Connecticut legislature on the bill that created the position, hailed the appointment of Kirk.

“It has taken far too long, but medical cannabis patients in Connecticut finally have a champion to give them a voice in their own program,” said Rinaldi. “I am thrilled to see Erin Gorman Kirk in this role and I look forward to what will undoubtedly be a lengthy list of impactful accomplishments geared toward improving patient outcomes.”

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