Audit Reveals Concerns About Arizona’s Medical Cannabis Program

A new report released by Arizona’s Auditor General has detailed several concerning issues regarding the state’s medical cannabis program.

According to the report, the audit found the program did not revoke medical cannabis cards from those who violated laws in a timely manner. The audit also found money that was saved for the program was not completely spent on the program.

The audit also found state regulators aren’t conducting food safety inspections at “infusion kitchens” where cannabis edibles are made. The lack of inspections puts Arizona medical cannabis cardholders at greater risk for foodborne illnesses. Restrictions in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act are cited as the reason for the DHS does not conduct surprise food safety inspections. The audit found when inspectors showed up for an announced visit, dispensaries often closed the kitchen.

“Because the Department does not conduct ongoing food safety inspections of infusion kitchens, there is a risk that qualifying patients, which include vulnerable populations, are purchasing and consuming food products without adequate oversight to prevent foodborne illnesses,” the Auditor General’s Office wrote.

Policies for storing medical cannabis were largely ignored, with the audit finding on facility using a bathroom as an extra storage room. The state also went more than a year without inspecting at least five facilities. 

After the audit Cara Christ, Arizona’s Department of Health Services (DHS) director, announced there was no intent to misallocate funds and will see that requests for funds will face more scrutiny. The audit found 31 employees were not working full-time on medical cannabis, but were still paid using funds from the program, totaling over $600,000. Funds from the program were also used for other programs within the Health Department, including another $600,000 spent on fees to allow doctors easier access to a database of prescriptions of controlled substances.

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