Marijuana enforcement audit, part two, reveals more messes -- and too much money

In March, state auditors gave the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division a bad review for its ineffective tracking systems and delayed application processes. But that was only part one of a two-part report. The other half was released yesterday.

The second part of the audit had the same dismal view of medical marijuana enforcement, but this time focused on the shortcomings of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Department of Revenue (DOR).

The department was shown to have few oversights when it came to monitoring physicians, caregivers and processing applications, has been collecting too much in fees and needs to update technology.

The report is almost ninety pages long, and gives recommendations to correct problems in three areas: regulation, program administration and fiscal management. Here are the audit's main points on each issue:


Physician Oversight

The auditors found several issues regarding physicians issuing red cards. For the 106,000 MMJ patients currently on file, only a small number of doctors issued their referrals.

Below is a graphic which shows the average number of patients per physician in the country (the red line), and compares that with the top fifty physicians giving MMJ referrals.

Auditors also looked at several web advertisements for physicians, and found twelve made claims that indicated their medical evaluations would be genuine or objective. They claimed convenience for easy access to marijuana, said medical records were not necessary, offered refunds and guarantees, and showed that some dispensaries had on-site doctors. Much of this alludes to financial ties between dispensaries and physicians, which are prohibited.

The audit also had issues with physicians authorizing high plant counts, with one patient being recommended 501 plants (the typical is 6). More patients are also being referred to MMJ for severe pain, which the auditors say may be a cover for using the drug illegally.

The CDPHE has the ability to refer doctors to the medical board for further investigation, which it has -- but not since 2011.

Caregivers The report shows that caregivers are almost completely unregulated; they do not have to pass any sort of checks to become a caregiver, their names are almost impossible to gain by law enforcement officials, and they are not monitored to ensure that they are doing their job. Caregivers are also supposed to do more than just grow for patients; they are supposed to provide living assistance, which is something that is presumably not happening in most scenarios.

Continue reading for more CDPHE flaws.

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