Pennsylvania Hires Health Care Exec to Lead MMJ Program

Pennsylvania has tapped a health care veteran – John J. Collins – to head its new medical marijuana program, a possible sign the state wants to make its program more accessible to MMJ patients versus restrictive.

The announcement of Collins’ appointment was greeted positively within the state’s MJ industry, even though a local TV station reported that the pharmaceutical company where he was a top executive faces fraud allegations.

“We believe that [Mr. Collins’] selection demonstrates that the Department of Health and the governor want to make our medical-cannabis program as good as it possibly can be and to benefit as many patients as it possibly can,” Patrick Nightingale, a Pittsburgh lawyer and executive director of the nonprofit Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Collins joined the state’s health department in April and has served as an assistant administrator in the Division of HIV Disease.

From 2010-2013 he was COO at Orlando-based Triad Isotopes, a national pharmaceutical company, according to the Post-Gazette.

Pittsburgh broadcaster WTAE reported that Triad faces a 2011 whistleblower lawsuit alleging the company engaged in bid rigging on a contract with Illinois’ Cook County. Triad denied the charges in court documents.

Covidien, a Boulder, Colorado-based company where Collins was a vice president before Triad, also is listed in the lawsuit. The suit accused it of serving as a “pure pass through” on the deal that later went to Triad, WTAW reported.

Collins told the broadcaster he was unaware of the allegations. He was not named in the lawsuit.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wold told WTAE: “This is news to me and I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of it and find out what’s going on.”