Confusion Surrounds The Departure Of Maine Medical Marijuana Program Director

Updated 2 years ago

The head of Maine’s medical marijuana program is out of a job today, but the circumstances surrounding his departure remain unclear.John Thiele, who served as Program Director for the Maine Medical Use of Marijuana Program for the Department of Health and Human Services the past two years, told attendees at a Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine event Friday that he had been let go. According to the Associated Press, Representative Mark Dion of Portland, who worked with Thiele as a lawmaker and a lawyer who represents medical marijuana caregivers, said he was surprised by Thiele’s dismissal, but he said some people in the department thought Thiele was acting more like a social worker than a regulator.TV5 spoke with Kenneth Albert, Director of the Division of Licensing & Regulatory Services, which controls Maine’s medical marijuana program, and he calls Thiele’s claims of being let go “inaccurate.” Albert claims Thiele resigned from his position. Albert would not elaborate on the situation, saying “this is a human resources matter and I cannot get into it.”We also spoke with John Thiele by phone Monday. He was tight lipped about the situation, except to say he is going through an appeals process and is “attempting to remain as an employee with the Department of Health and Human Services.”A source close to the situation says Thiele did resign, then tried to rescind his resignation, but DHHS officials would not initially allow him to take back his resignation.Paul McCarrier, from the Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association of Maine, said Monday Thiele’s two-year tenure was a success. “Really, working from where there was no official system, where there was a lot of confusion between law enforcement, patients and caregivers, and being able to shepherd the program to a point where it was successful and ran very smoothly for a state program,” McCarrier said.Other members of the medical marijuana community agreed, they’re sad to see Thiele go. Chris Kenoyer, a medical marijuana advocate, says Thiele’s departure could mean a shakeup of Maine’s medical marijuana program as it’s currently constituted. “John has been doing a great job helping the last two years to get the program up and running,” Kenoyer said. “He helped everyone get set up with the correct and proper paperwork and answered any questions when we needed assistance.”There’s a growing concern that the line of communication between law enforcement and dhhs is the first thing that will suffer. “Law enforcement has a job to do to verify that there are people within the program and if they can’t work cohesively with the medical marijuana program all we’re going to see is innocent patients suffer,” McCarrier said.McCarrier also fears Thiele’s departure may signify a change in direction from a program patients and caregivers say was running as smoothly as ever, to being more restrictive and adversarial. “We’ll see, because Ken Alberts is an appointed official, so I hope this doesn’t show an about face with the governor’s office on supporting the will of the people of Maine.”


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