Audit of Minnesota's medical cannabis program finds concerns for product testing

Updated: January 15, 2020 10:14 PM

A new audit of Minnesota's medical cannabis program sheds light on several shortcomings by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), which could affect efforts to legalize recreational marijuana this year before the new legislative session even starts.

The report, released Tuesday by the Office of the Legislative Auditor, found MDH's internal controls of the program "were generally not adequate" to protect financial assets and ensure compliance with the program's legal requirements. The report was based on an examination of the program from July 1, 2016, through the end of 2018.

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Among the shortcomings, the report said MDH didn't:

  • Verify that the license of patients' health care practitioners was active and in good standing for all new patients.
  • Keep valid documentation of the eligibility of parents or legal guardians for the medical cannabis program.
  • Adequately reconcile some medical cannabis patient fees or ensure employee separation of duties when handling the payments.
  • Ensure that each of the two medical cannabis manufacturers had a formal contract with a testing lab.
  • Have adequate controls to ensure manufacturers accurately tracked and tested medical cannabis prior to sale.
  • Have adequate controls to help prevent and timely detect diversion or loss of medical cannabis by a manufacturer.

The report also noted MDH failed to comply with some legal requirements but said the department generally complied with most program rules.

Minnesota is one of 33 states that allows qualifying patients access to medical cannabis for health care treatment. In Fiscal Year 2019, more than 17,000 patients were enrolled in the program.

Patrick McClellan is a patient in the program, was instrumental in helping get legislation for the program passed and lobbies on behalf of patients.

"Not having adequate testing of the product in the medical cannabis program is concerning," said McClellan.  "I want to know the product I buy is safe and that it is tested properly in case I get sick and we need to trace it to where it was tested and see if the lab said it was safe."

Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner, Jan Malcolm, told the Minnesota Legislative Audit Commission her department is already taking steps to make sure testing is done correctly.

"We are tightening those areas up with different software," said Malcolm.  "That will now allow the Office of Medical Cannabis to monitor for activities suspect of diversion, or inversion, or lack of inventory control."

You can see the full audit here.

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