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State Chooses New Director For Budding Medical Marijuana Program

Pennsylvania Department of Health


Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program has a new director.

Gov. Tom Wolf's administration introduced John Collins on Thursday as head of the state Office of Medical Marijuana.

Collins, who joined the state's health department in April as assistant administrator in the Division of HIV Disease, will oversee the state's newly minted program, including cultivation and distribution regulations. He starts on Monday.

Credit Pennsylvania Department of Health
Pennsylvania Department of Health
Pennsylvania's new medical marijuana program will be led by John Collins, who previously served the state as an assistant administrator in the Division of HIV Disease.

  Health Secretary Karen Murphy has said the regulations should be fully in place by early 2018, but that's subject to change.

"I think his first act will be to take a look at the timeline that we have laid out for the program, and certainly to meet with the program staff that we now have dedicated to medical marijuana," Murphy said.

Collins' experience in the private sector helped distinguish him from 120-plus other candidates, Murphy said. He was chief operating officer at a Florida-based pharmaceutical company from June 2010 to August 2013. He also worked for Covidien, a health care products firm.

"His past in complex organizations, his expertise in those areas to be able to take a complex concept and execute, I think that will be a tremendous benefit," Murphy said.

Collins said he has no prior involvement with medical marijuana, but expects his experience in a "heavily regulated medical enterprise" will help him in the new role.

He will be paid more than $76,000 a year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ben Allen was the Morning Edition host at KOSU, from March 2012 to October 2013.