Connecticut selects first cannabis ombudsperson to advocate for patients

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Connecticut officials appointed the state’s first cannabis ombudsperson tasked with safeguarding the state’s medical marijuana program.

Erin Gorman Kirk of Norwalk, Connecticut, is an attorney, entrepreneur and consumer advocate who has influenced cannabis and hemp policies in Connecticut and other states, said Sean King, Connecticut’s acting healthcare advocate, in a news release.

Kirk is the founder of Cannabis Government Strategies and president of The Jamison Group, a consulting firm, and has extensive experience “advising and supporting individuals, businesses and government officials seeking to navigate the rapidly evolving cannabis industry,” King said.

Medical marijuana patient advocate

Image of Erin Gorman Kirk, Connecticut cannabis ombudsperson
Erin Gorman Kirk (Courtesy photo)

Kirk will be responsible for monitoring the palliative use of marijuana and the medical cannabis system and will advocate for the interests of qualifying patients and caregivers, the press release from the Office of the Healthcare Advocate.

More than 800 people applied for the cannabis ombudsperson position, which was posted last year with an expected salary of $88,710-$161,639 annually.

Applications were reviewed by patient advocates, the office of Gov. Ned Lamont and the office of House Majority Leader Jason Rojas.

Kirk said she would be a “vigilant guardian of patient interests” and that her office would “actively engage with all stakeholders to improve the palliative marijuana market, making Connecticut a model state for patient advocacy in the cannabis sector.”

Her first day on the job is May 28.

New state role

The Office of the Cannabis Ombudsperson was established July 1, 2023, as an independent state agency by the General Assembly through Public Act 23-79, and receives administrative support from the Office of the Healthcare Advocate, according to a news release.

Medical ombudspersons are not common, but also not unheard of.

Connecticut has had an ombudsperson for long-term care, for example, CT News Junkie reported last year.

The current Office of Healthcare Advocate was previously known as Office of Managed Care Ombudsman, the outlet said.

Louis Rinaldi, a patient advocate in Guilford, Connecticut, said Kirk’s is the first Cannabis Ombudsperson position in the nation.

“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,” Rinaldi told MJBizDaily.

“I look forward to what will undoubtedly be a lengthy list of impactful accomplishments geared toward improving patient outcomes.”