State lawmakers looking to reform California’s medical marijuana industry point to Colorado, which has a state agency tasked with overseeing the quasi-legal business, as an example to follow. But that state’s cannabis-control arm has squandered money and has not adequately defined its mission, according to a recent audit.
Colorado’s Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division has run in the red for nearly two years and underreported state tax revenue from the sale of marijuana by $760,000, according to a state audit.
A reform bill modified last week by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, would put medical marijuana dispensaries under the auspices of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Colorado’s regulatory scheme is being used as a model, Ammiano said.
Colorado marijuana regulators blamed state legislators for the lack of oversight. A moratorium on new dispensaries also contributed to the enforcement division’s monetary woes.
The audit suggested Colorado has been sloppy in shoring up control of the drug, yet a spokesman for Ammiano said Wednesday that the state still provides an “excellent approach.”
“But the audit appears to warn us that we have to be vigilant about how it is implemented,” spokesman Carlos Alcala said via email.
Ammiano has made medical marijuana a signature issue as a Sacramento lawmaker.
A bill in 2012 to create a cannabis-specific bureau of enforcement died.
In 1996, California was the first state in the country to allow the use of marijuana medicinally, but state legislators were slow to adopt rules allowing access to it.
High-ranking politicians such as Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom — who was mayor of San Francisco when The City adopted first-of-their-kind rules around permitting medical marijuana dispensaries — have come out in favor of uniform statewide rules regulating California’s cannabis industry.
Reuters contributed to this report.