AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s top state medical marijuana regulator confirmed Monday evening that he has been fired by the state Department of Health and Human Services.
John Thiele, who headed up the Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services for DHHS, received a letter last month from the department’s human resources office stating that he was terminated as of Oct. 19. Before that, he had been placed on administrative leave for 10 days, he said.
Thiele declined to comment any further on why he was let go, citing his intention to pursue an appeal.
He said the Maine State Employees Association filed a grievance on his behalf with DHHS by the Maine State Employees Association, and he expects to meet this week with a union representative.
“I’ve been asked not to [comment],” he said.
Paul McCarrier, legislative liaison for the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, said he has talked to people who are close to the division of DHHS that Thiele oversaw and summarized their view of what happened.
In the eyes of the department, “Basically, he was acting too much like a social worker” and not a regulator, said McCarrier.
Thiele was scheduled to speak at the caregivers’ trade show on Saturday, Nov. 10, at the Holiday Inn By The Bay in Portland. Thiele was listed as the former director on the agenda.
Attempts to reach DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew and a spokeswoman for Gov. Paul LePage were not successful Monday.
McCarrier feared the medical marijuana program would not function as well in Thiele’s absence.
“He was really good at taking care of all the moving parts,” he said.
Recently, according to McCarrier, law enforcement officers have been seeking and having courts grant search warrants that have been used to allow them to search growing operations that were licensed by the state. He said Thiele was skilled at taking care of such concerns.
The state maintains a list of licensed growers that law enforcement should be able to check before searching a property, he said.
McCarrier said Denise Guay of the licensing and regulatory division is expected to take over the day-to-day operations.