Pennsylvania has hired a public administrator with a private-sector background as the first director of its fledgling Office of Medical Marijuana, health secretary Karen Murphy said Thursday.

John J. Collins, an assistant administrator in the state Division of HIV Disease, will be paid $76,519 a year to steer the implementation of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana program. That process is slated to be complete by early 2018, about two years after Gov. Wolf signed a law to legalize some forms of the therapy.

"Throughout my career, I've always been focused on the patient and delivering the highest-quality products and services," Collins said in a call with reporters. He's scheduled to begin his new job Monday.

Murphy said Collins' executive experience helped him land the job over 122 other applicants. A certified allied health professional, Collins was chief operating officer for Triad Isotopes Inc., a national pharmacy company based in Orlando, Fla., before joining the state HIV office in April. He worked more than 30 years in the private sector, Murphy said.

While he has no background in medical marijuana, Collins said, his experience managing controlled or regulated substances will help him in the new role. Triad deals in radiopharmaceuticals, a tightly regulated group of radioactive drugs used in cancer treatments, among other functions.

Collins also holds an MBA from Lindenwood University in Saint Charles, Mo., and underwent leadership training at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, according to the health department. He said he's from Philadelphia.

The state medical-marijuana office will oversee regulations - now under development - to govern the treatments, their production and distribution. Eligible Pennsylvania adults won't have ready access to the therapies until products become available inside state borders, a process that could take about two years.

In the meantime, Murphy said, state health officials are developing budget and staff plans for the office. It isn't clear yet how many people the office will employ-or what it will spend over the long term.

Still, Murphy said the health department expects about $6 million under the legislation for the two-year start-up period. Only pills, oil, topical applications, tinctures and similar forms of medical marijuana will be accessible. Patients won't be allowed to smoke it in Pennsylvania.

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