Audit Finds Issues With Arizona Marijuana Program


Arizona’s medical marijuana program inadequately investigated complaints in opposition to dispensaries, misallocated funds, and didn’t revoke in a well timed style registration playing cards from sufferers who broke the regulation, based on a report from the State Auditor’s workplace.

The audit additionally discovered that the Division of Well being Providers, which oversees this system, has not been conducting well being inspections on the 36 “infusion kitchens” in Arizona that make edibles, regardless of them being licensed as “meals institutions.”

“The Division’s failure to frequently examine infusion kitchens locations qualifying sufferers liable to buying and consuming meals merchandise with out sufficient oversight to stop foodborne sicknesses,” the report discovered.

Despite that discovering, the DHS claimed in its response to the audit that it has no authority to conduct unannounced inspections at cannabis kitchens.

Revealed on Tuesday, the report lists 12 suggestions for the federal government company accountable for regulating greater than 100 dispensaries and 90 marijuana cultivation websites in Arizona, in addition to the registration playing cards of practically 200,000 qualifying sufferers.

Many of the audit’s findings handled inadequacies in the best way state staff deal with routine inspections of dispensaries and investigations of complaints.

This system didn’t at all times meet its casual purpose of inspecting dispensaries and develop websites at the very least yearly. Amongst a random pattern of 17 amenities reviewed by auditors, 5 had gone longer than a yr with out an inspection. Rare inspections might pose public well being considerations, the report states.

For instance, one develop web site that had not obtained an inspection in a yr was later discovered to be storing cultivation gear in a toilet, “which might lead to micro organism and germs from the gear transferring to medical marijuana on the cultivation web site.”

This system additionally confirmed deficiencies in its dealing with of complaints in opposition to dispensaries, the audit discovered. Of a random pattern of 30 complaints, this system failed to research two as a result of staff wrongly discovered them to be exterior of their jurisdiction.

One of many ignored complaints handled a dispensary that allegedly claimed to be completely closed when the regulation states {that a} dispensary have to be open for 30 hours weekly. The opposite un-investigated grievance alleged {that a} dispensary mislabeled merchandise.

For eight of the complaints reviewed, staff didn’t adequately doc how they performed their investigations, which means auditors couldn’t decide whether or not they have been correctly dealt with.

This system was additionally inconsistent in the way it responded to dispensaries with violations. Some noncompliant dispensaries received a gathering with regulators. Others have been requested to submit a written plan for enchancment. Even dispensaries who violated the identical guidelines have been met with totally different responses.

For instance, the audit reviewed two instances of dispensaries that illegally allowed an individual below the age of 21 to volunteer on-site.

Within the first case, the dispensary house owners met with regulators and agreed to 2 unannounced compliance visits. Within the second case — involving a dispensary that had a 16-year-old working with affected person information — the house owners have been solely requested to put in writing a plan for enchancment. 5 months later, that dispensary was discovered to be using staffers with out registration playing cards.

On prime of points with this system’s regulation of dispensaries, the audit discovered discovered that state staff didn’t revoke in a “well timed” style the medical marijuana playing cards of sufferers who broke the regulation. Reviewing a random pattern of 10 instances of sufferers who violated the Medical Marijuana Act, the audit discovered that this system took between 21 to 243 working days to revoke playing cards.

The DHS agreed with many of the auditor’s findings, however notably disagreed with two of them.

Most importantly, the division rejected the notion that this system can conduct inspections at kitchens that prepare dinner marijuana edibles. The division famous that it agrees with the “reasoning and suggestion” of the auditor on this occasion, however doesn’t imagine this system has the statutory authority to order unannounced inspections.

The division additionally disagreed with a discovering that this system misallocated taxpayer {dollars}. The report discovered that 31 staff didn’t work full time on medical marijuana, however have been nonetheless paid solely in funds appropriated to this system, totaling $603,600.

In an inverted instance of misallocation, funds that have been appropriated for the medical marijuana program additionally benefited different packages inside the Well being Division. The most important instance within the audit report was $600,000 spent on charges to permit medical doctors to entry extra simply a database of prescriptions of managed substances.

The database contains prescriptions for marijuana in addition to different substances reminiscent of opioids. However the medical marijuana program nonetheless swallowed the entire $600,000.

In its response to the audit, the division claimed that it “believes that monies for the [medical marijuana fund] have been spent in an allowable method, and that payroll prices for the Fund have been solely charged for work staff carried out on this system.”

Nonetheless, the division said that it could set up extra formal guidelines on utilizing funds.


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