The former deputy police chief of Portland is now leading Maine’s cannabis compliance effort.

Vern Malloch Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

Vern Malloch is the first director of compliance in Maine’s newly created Office of Marijuana Policy. He will oversee monitoring and compliance for Maine’s medical marijuana program, which was started in 1999, and its recreational marijuana program, which is slated to go live in March.

“I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’m excited about the challenge,” Malloch said. “I’m not for or against it, as a person, but the voters approved it, state law was changed and now it’s the responsibility of government to facilitate it, make it successful. You do that with good policy and good implementation.”

Malloch became interested in marijuana compliance issues last year when he joined a city delegation to Colorado, the first state to legalize recreational marijuana sales, to help Portland prepare to regulate the adult-use market. The city is adopting marijuana regulations now.

“When I decided it was time to hang up my spurs in Portland, I left knowing I was still young enough to contribute in some field, in some fashion, in some way,” Malloch said. “After talking to compliance folks in Denver, I realized this might be a good second career. It’s definitely a burgeoning industry.”

Malloch was a finalist to become Portland’s next chief, but left the department that he had served for 35 years when the city decided in July to offer the job instead to Frank Clark, a longtime lieutenant in South Portland. Malloch had been the interim chief for a year at that time.

As Portland’s assistant chief, Malloch occasionally found himself trying to sort out the state’s marijuana laws, ranging from the legality of a party where people gave away samples (illegal because it was being held in a public place) to commercial gifting services (illegal, but the department didn’t go after them).

He was chosen from a pool of 27 applicants and started his new job on Sept. 30, said David Heidrich, spokesman for the Office of Marijuana Policy. Malloch will earn $81,099 a year, putting him at the very top of the state’s advertised salary range for the executive level position.

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