Audit: Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency effective, should speed up disciplinary actions

posted on Aug 24, 2023 on Detroit Free Press

When Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer named Brian Hanna as the acting executive director of the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency nearly a year ago (he later was named the executive director), he quickly communicated his priority: Illicit cannabis is an issue that needs to be addressed and licensees who weren’t following the rules would be exposed.

An audit of the agency released Thursday by the state’s Office of the Auditor General, which audited the CRA between April 2021 and August 2022 (before Hanna started), offered one of the first looks at how effectively the agency was enforcing the rules before he stepped in and how it has tried to improve those efforts under Hanna’s leadership over the last year.

The audit found that the CRA was mostly effective in the areas the audit examined, such as processing applications for medical and recreational marijuana business licenses and medical marijuana patient and caregiver cards in a timely matter, and meeting legislative reporting requirements.

When it came to enforcement actions, the audit said the CRA appropriately documented and communicated results and followed up on noncompliance for all inspections received. It also ensured testing labs completed annual proficiency tests and followed up on all issues identified with the labs.

One area that the audit raised concerns about was in the length of time it took the agency to complete disciplinary actions against licensees. While the audit said the CRA completed timely investigations for 91% of the complaints the Office of the Auditor General staff reviewed, it found it took the CRA an average of 196 days (with the longest being 757 days) to complete disciplinary action for 123 formal complaints.

The audit found only a small percentage of those complaints appear to involve a contested case hearing, which involve other state agencies, and the CRA doesn’t control the scheduling of those hearings, meaning the majority of the formal complaints examined were handled internally.

In its response to the audit’s findings, the CRA said it “needs to improve its processes to timely initiate and resolve disciplinary proceedings as soon as reasonably possible,” and said it had created a single section to address disciplinary matters and reassigned and hired staff solely focused on addressing these issues.

A recent CRA enforcement action:Flight marijuana vape cartridges recalled over banned chemical residues

Another recent CRA enforcement action:Marijuana edibles labeled ‘The Weed Bar’ recalled because they contain excessive THC

Robin Schneider, executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, said of the audit findings that it’s important to note that at the time the audit was conducted, the industry’s focus was on licensing. Enforcement has only more recently become a priority for the industry and the CRA, she said.

In a roundtable interview with several members of the news media in October, when asked why it took more than a year to order a medical marijuana dispensary in Detroit to close its doors after CRA staff observed that multiple bags, backpacks and duffel bags filled with suspected marijuana products did not have state tagging information, Hanna said that was a “valid critique” and was something he planned on addressing.

The CRA’s spokesperson didn’t have any comment on the audit Thursday.

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