AUGUSTA — The head of the state office that oversees Maine’s medical marijuana program has resigned after being placed on administrative leave several weeks ago.

Catherine Cobb is stepping down as director of the Division of Licensing and Regulation for the Department of Health and Human Services effective Friday. Cobb was placed on paid leave Oct. 21, according to a memo to staff at the time.

Cobb and Assistant Director Anne Flanagan were placed on leave as part of “a managerial review” of the division, according to the memo from Bill Boeschenstein, chief operating officer of the department.
State officials, including DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew, had refused to discuss the reasons for Cobb’s leave in recent weeks.

Spokesman John Martins said Cobb submitted her resignation on Nov. 18. Flanagan remains on leave and the review is ongoing, Martins said. He said he could provide no further information about the review or Cobb’s resignation.

“The leave was to accommodate the commissioner’s office wanting to take a look at the needs of the division that I ran,” Cobb said in an interview today. Cobb also would not elaborate, but said she was not disciplined or fired.

“It’s time for a change. I’ve been doing this work for a long time,” said Cobb, who is using vacation time this week.

Cobb has worked in state government for 31 years, most of them in the Health and Human Services Department.

As head of the licensing division since 1996, Cobb oversaw regulation of hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, day-care centers and mental health and substance abuse programs, among other things. Although it was a small piece of her job, Cobb was most visible as the woman who implemented the state’s medical marijuana program and oversaw the creation of a network of licensed dispensaries.

Cobb eventually hired a full-time program coordinator, who is now managing the marijuana program.

Phyllis Powell is currently the acting director of the division.