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Connecticut names nation’s first cannabis ombudsperson

Erin Kirk, Connecticut Cannabis Ombudsperson
Office of CT Cannabis Ombudsperson
Erin Kirk, Connecticut Cannabis Ombudsperson

Connecticut makes history Tuesday when the nation’s first cannabis ombudsperson starts her role in the state.

In the new role, Erin Kirk, a lawyer and consumer advocate from Norwalk, will be responsible for monitoring the palliative use of marijuana, the medical cannabis system and looking after the interests of qualifying patients and caregivers.

Kirk, who is a medical marijuana patient herself, said that since recreational adult-use became legal in the state, medical users have been left behind.

“I do have subject matter expertise that people have admitted they don’t have,” she said. “They were brought in to do consumer advocacy… And cannabis is a very specific niche. It was decided we needed a patient advocate with subject matter expertise who could assist in crafting legislation that would further preserve patients rights.”

As cannabis ombudsperson, Kirk said she plans to focus on the labeling of products so medical patients and others know exactly what they’re consuming, and whether it’s been altered in any way.

“You can do whatever you want as a producer, but tell people, give them as patients in particular... They should have that knowledge. 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,” she said.

Although Kirk’s position does not come with any legal powers over cannabis producers in the state, she said she hopes direct communication with them will be the key to affecting change.

Kirk’s position was created by the legislature, and is independent from other state agencies, but she plans to work with the state Department of Consumer Protection, which oversee the legal recreational market, on cannabis related matters.

An award-winning freelance reporter/host for WSHU, Brian lives in southeastern Connecticut and covers stories for WSHU across the Eastern side of the state.