Audit of Portland’s Cannabis Program Finds City Needs Improved Regulation Strategy
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Audit of Portland’s Cannabis Program Finds City Needs Improved Regulation Strategy

An independent auditor with Portland Audit Services has determined that the Office of Community and Civic Life is struggling to meet its regulatory obligations.

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February 18, 2020

A recent audit of Portland’s cannabis program has determined that the city needs an improved strategy to regulate the industry.

Alexandra Fercak, a performance auditor with Portland Audit Services, said the Office of Community and Civic Life, which oversees the city’s cannabis industry, is struggling to meet its regulatory obligations, according to an Oregon Public Radio report.

Fercak’s report, titled “Cannabis Program: Management fundamentals needed to improve regulation of emerging industry,” was released late last month. Auditors interviewed managers and staff from the Office of Community and Civic Life and reviewed industry feedback on challenges related to regulation to compile their findings, Oregon Public Radio reported.

The audit found that the Office of Community and Civic Life lacks an overall strategy to manage the city’s cannabis program, as well as a system to accurately track data on cannabis licensing and enforcement, according to an Oregon Live report. The regulatory body also lacks tools to regularly communicate with other city departments, the city council and the public, the news outlet reported.

The auditor’s report recommends that the Office of Community and Civic Life create an overall strategy to streamline the cannabis licensing process, track data, and publicly disclose information about the industry and its performance, according to Oregon Live.

“I was actually at the meeting [last week], where they pointed out what they were going to do about the audit, and it didn’t sound like concrete action,” Jeannette Ward Horton, operator of the NuLeaf Project, told Cannabis Business Times. The NuLeaf Project administers a fund established by Portland that provides grants to minority-owned cannabis businesses operated by those disproportionately impacted by prohibition.

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Although the roll-out of Portland’s cannabis industry has been slow, Ward Horton said she has no major complaints with the city’s regulation of the market.

“We’re having a good experience,” she said. “It’s been good, but it’s slow. That’d be my only pushback.”

Portland’s cannabis industry underwent a separate audit last year, Ward Horton said, which examined the funding behind the program. That audit found that most of the collected taxes from the cannabis industry have gone toward the city’s general fund, as well as police and transportation programs, which is not what voters intended, Ward Horton said.

Portland City Council will hold a meeting in early March to reconsider the allocation of the tax revenue, she said, and it remains to be seen what action the city will take in response to the new audit.

“The last audit, we haven’t seen any changes,” Ward Horton said. “So, we’ll see."