Arizona’s medical marijuana program inadequately investigated complaints against dispensaries, misallocated funds, and failed to revoke in a timely fashion registration cards from patients who broke the law, according to a report from the State Auditor’s office.
The audit also found that the Department of Health Services, which oversees the program, has not been conducting health inspections at the 36 “infusion kitchens” in Arizona that make edibles, despite them being licensed as “food establishments.”
“The Department’s failure to regularly inspect infusion kitchens places qualifying patients at risk of purchasing and consuming food products without adequate oversight to prevent foodborne illnesses,” the report found.
In spite of that finding, the DHS claimed in its response to the audit that it has no authority to conduct unannounced inspections at cannabis kitchens.
Published on Tuesday, the report lists 12 recommendations for the government agency responsible for regulating more than 100 dispensaries and 90 marijuana cultivation sites in Arizona, as well as the registration cards of nearly 200,000 qualifying patients.
Most of the audit’s findings dealt with inadequacies in the way state employees handle routine inspections of dispensaries and investigations of complaints.
The program did not always meet its informal goal of inspecting dispensaries and grow sites at least once a year. Among a random sample of 17 facilities reviewed by auditors, five had gone longer than a year without an inspection. Infrequent inspections could pose public health concerns, the report states.
For example, one grow site that had not received an inspection in a year was later found to be storing cultivation equipment in a bathroom, “which could result in bacteria and germs from the equipment transferring to medical marijuana at the cultivation site.”
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The program also showed deficiencies in its handling of complaints against dispensaries, the audit