The probe aims to decide whether hashish regulators are operating “in a method that is effective, accountable and clear.”

By Jason Hancock, Missouri Impartial

Missouri Auditor Scott Fitzpatrick (R) has begun an investigation into the state’s marijuana software, vowing to evaluate no matter whether regulators are working “in a manner that is effective, accountable and transparent.”

The audit is not a program, scheduled critique. It was initiated by Fitzpatrick following he pledged final year all through his marketing campaign to appear into how Missouri oversees legalized cannabis.

It will address both equally the healthcare and leisure applications, spanning back again to when Missouri voters 1st signed off on healthcare cannabis in 2018. Auditors working for Fitzpatrick satisfied with officials at the Office of Wellness and Senior Services for the to start with time on August 2.

There was no formal announcement that the inquiry was currently being done, but the marijuana plan was shown on Fitzpatrick’s formal web page on a list of ongoing audits.

Fitzpatrick, a very first-expression Republican from Shell Knob, stated in an electronic mail to The Unbiased that the audit was impressed by the reality that cannabis is poised to be a $1 billion sector in Missouri and the amendments that legalized it “represent some of the most sizeable changes we have found to our condition structure in new memory.”

“These provisions now make up additional than a person-fifth of the language in our state constitution,” Fitzpatrick stated.

He added: “The guidelines and regulations promulgated for these plans govern hundreds of marijuana facilities all throughout Missouri that cultivate and promote cannabis products to hundreds of thousands of Missourians each and every yr.”

Lisa Cox, a spokeswoman for DHSS, stated the company has been notified that it will be working with the point out auditor’s office as part of an audit of the marijuana program in the Division of Cannabis Regulation.

The auditor’s place of work will be just the latest to endeavor to delve into the internal workings of a application that has drawn scrutiny from state lawmakers and federal regulation enforcement.

Health-related cannabis right away grew to become massive business enterprise in Missouri immediately after voters passed a constitutional modification letting it in 2018. Competition for licenses to grow, provide and manufacture hashish items grew to become intense when the point out capped the quantity it would concern.

The Missouri Residence introduced an investigation into the licensing course of action in early 2020, fueled by prevalent reviews of irregularities in how license programs were being scored and allegations that conflicts of interest inside DHSS and a non-public organization employed to score programs may possibly have tainted the method.

Legislators also criticized DHSS’s selection to deem license possession information confidential, a shift they argued brought on difficulties in supplying oversight of the marijuana plan.

Final yr, the Residence voted overwhelmingly to need condition regulators to disclose possession data for corporations granted marijuana licenses. But opposition from the market sunk the plan in the Missouri Senate.

Meanwhile, Missouri cannabis regulators obtained three federal grand jury subpoenas in 2019 and 2020, with just about every redacted ahead of becoming turned over to the media at the ask for of the federal government to obfuscate the records currently being sought.

At the identical time, the FBI interviewed lawmakers, local officials and advocates about marijuana licensing. A Kansas City-place businessman testified in a deposition that he was questioned by federal regulation enforcement in 2021 about marijuana licensing in Missouri and utility contracts in Independence.

A number of legislators have been also interviewed by the FBI past year, such as now-House Speaker Dean Plocher (R). The concentrate of the queries was lobbying efforts relevant to a invoice that would have legalized leisure cannabis use devoid of license caps.

The bill fizzled in the legislative session’s closing months, and voters would go on to approve a leisure cannabis constitutional modification months afterwards.

Even though functioning for auditor final year, Fitzpatrick expressed opposition to the recreational marijuana modification. He said at the time that his issue was not legalization, but instead the truth that the initiative petition additional so a great deal regulation to the state structure as an alternative of point out statute.

He also complained about the concept of the amendment bolstering a “government-mandated monopoly,” referring to provisions that immediately grant licenses to expand and offer leisure cannabis to companies now serving the health-related current market.

Condition Rep. Peter Merideth, a St. Louis Democrat and recurrent critic of Missouri’s marijuana regulators, praised the auditor for launching the inquiry, stating he thinks the marijuana industry “could use additional transparency, especially with regard to the licensing.”

This story was 1st posted by Missouri Unbiased.

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