April 20, 2017

Feds find grant money misused on medical pot

A state agency that helps compensate victims of crimes was called out by the U.S. Department of Justice for using federal grant money to reimburse victims for medical cannabis purchases.

The U.S. Office of the Inspector General released its audit  of the New Mexico’s Crime Victims Reparation Commission this week, and criticized the agency.  Cannabis, the federal agency said, is still illegal on a federal level.

“While medical marijuana is legal in the State of New Mexico, federal law does not recognize or protect the possession or use of medical marijuana,” the audit read. “As a result, medical marijuana is an unallowable expenditure and cannot be paid for with federal grant funds.”

The Office of the Inspector General recommended the state commission change its procedures to make sure federal money does not pay for cannabis.

The commission’s director Frank Zubia responded with a letter stating the state commission would only use state grants to pay for medical cannabis and that the more than $7,000 in federal grant money was moved to another program for crime victims.

The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Assistance Grant was established under former President Ronald Reagan as a way to provide financial assistance to crime victims. The money in the fund comes from fines and penalties of those convicted of crimes, and goes toward  counseling, medical needs and court assistance for victims.

The audit also concluded that the Crime Victims Reparation Commission adequately fixed the error by moving the funds and putting a new plan into place. The report deemed the matter “Closed.”

“We reviewed the documentation and determined it adequately addressed our recommendation,” the audit read.