Auditor raises concerns about med pot audits

The New Mexico State Auditor’s Office called on two state agencies to look into a medical cannabis executive director who is accused of a conflict of interest related to audits. In letters to the Department of Health and the Public Accountancy Board, a group within the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department that oversees public accountants, […]

Auditor raises concerns about med pot audits

The New Mexico State Auditor’s Office called on two state agencies to look into a medical cannabis executive director who is accused of a conflict of interest related to audits.An Initiative To Legalize Marijuana In California To Appear On Nov. Ballot

In letters to the Department of Health and the Public Accountancy Board, a group within the state’s Regulation and Licensing Department that oversees public accountants, the state Auditor’s office expressed concern that Vivian Moore, a certified public accountant, may have created a conflict of interest by conducting independent audits of medical cannabis producers. This is because Moore also is the executive director of Doña Ana County-based Mother Earth Herbs, Inc.

Mother Earth Herbs, Inc. is a medical marijuana distributor licensed by the state.

The letters came from Special Investigations Director Kevin Sourisseau.

Sourisseau wrote that his office was made aware of “independence issues” concerning Moore and the audits she has allegedly performed for other producers. The letters also ask both agencies to look into an allegation that Moore “may be paid through the exchange of cannabis product.”

In a conversation on Monday morning, Moore defended her audits.

Moore told NM Political Report that there is a lack of CPAs who are qualified or willing to perform audits on licensed non-profit producers.

“In order to accept an audit engagement the CPAs must have specialized knowledge,” Moore said.

The Department of Health requires all cannabis producers to submit an independent audit, but the state Accountancy Board did not offer guidance to CPAs on how or if they should provide audits to businesses that operate against federal law. The board only advised public accountants to seek the opinion of legal counsel.

Moore said it’s this ambiguity among state agencies that creates a void of willing auditors.

“I wish there was another CPA that was heavily involved [in the medical cannabis industry] to look at Mother Earth,” Moore said.

Moore said she remains independent when she conducts audits and doesn’t “nitpick” but also holds producers to a high standard and doesn’t give preferential treatment.

“I’m harder on these guys,” Moore said of her cannabis producer clients.

In a statement, Keller stressed that the medical cannabis program needs independent audits, free of conflicts.

“The Medical Marijuana program is at its core about providing assistance to patients in need with a well-functioning system,” Keller wrote. “The Department of Health is responsible for administering the program in a fair and accountable manner, part of which means ensuring the independence of the audits of cannabis producers.”

In the letter to Accountancy Board Executive Director Jeanette Contreras and DOH Secretary Lynn Gallagher, Sourisseau wrote that an investigation into the specific allegation of payment by cannabis products is not in the scope of his office.

The state’s medical marijuana program has been under increased scrutiny in recent months.

Until this year, the names of medical cannabis companies were kept secret under DOH rules. After a legal battle between the state and independent journalist Peter St. Cyr, the state released the names of all licensed producers.

NM Political Report previously reported on mostly blank site inspection forms, prompting at least one producer to question whether the DOH has staff knowledgeable in producing medical cannabis.

Moore also said she believes DOH officials and many auditors are not very well-versed in the marijuana industry.

“I don’t think they really know what to look for,” Moore said.

NM Political Report reached out to officials from both the Accountancy Board and DOH, but did not receive any response by press time.

Moore told NM Political Report that DOH has hired new compliance officers and safety experts, but the department’s website does not offer a list of employees who work in the medical cannabis program.

We're ad free

That means that we rely on support from readers like you. Help us keep reporting on the most important New Mexico Stories by donating today.

Related

Politics Newsletter: LFC Budget report

Politics Newsletter: LFC Budget report

The Dec. 4 politics newsletter includes Legislative Finance Committe revenue tracking report, countdown to the legislative session and Meanwhile on the Hill.
Judge rules that congressional map is not an unlawful gerrymander

Judge rules that congressional map is not an unlawful gerrymander

A judge upheld the congressional maps that Republicans alleged included illegal gerrymandering, particularly in the case of the state’s 2nd Congressional District. Ninth Judicial…
Challenger announces she’ll run for Ivey-Soto Senate seat

Challenger announces she’ll run for Ivey-Soto Senate seat

Former New Mexico House Democratic Campaign Committee finance director Heather Berghmans announced her run for state senate District 15 on Thursday. She is running…
Illegal cattle grazing remains a problem in Valles Caldera National Preserve

Illegal cattle grazing remains a problem in Valles Caldera National Preserve

Legal grazing is allowed in an allotment in the national preserve and Tuell said the cattle grazed on that allotment have not caused problems…
A different perspective on the energy transition

A different perspective on the energy transition

Merrie Lee Soules has never worked for a utility in any sense, which, on first glance, could make her an odd choice to testify…
Energy transition brings new challenges to utilities planning distribution

Energy transition brings new challenges to utilities planning distribution

As of today, 8 percent of the Public Service Company of New Mexico’s customers—approximately 41,000 customers—have solar panels or battery storage on their properties,…
More learning time, free meals coming to students this school year

More learning time, free meals coming to students this school year

As children prepare to return to school for the new public school year, they will see some changes after legislation passed in the 2023…
Legislature hears about post-COVID impacts on education

Legislature hears about post-COVID impacts on education

Public education is still recovering from the effects of COVID-19 lockdowns. The state Legislative Finance Committee’s Public Education Subcommittee released a report Wednesday detailing…
ECECD hosts baby showers to let parents know about resources

ECECD hosts baby showers to let parents know about resources

Friday afternoon, a line of people formed outside a room in the Explora Science Center and Children’s Museum in Albuquerque.  The line was made…
Gov. Lujan Grisham tests positive for COVID

Gov. Lujan Grisham tests positive for COVID

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham tested positive for COVID-19 for a third time. The governor’s office said that Lujan Grisham is experiencing mild symptoms and…
Study: New Mexico had highest increase in abortion since 2020

Study: New Mexico had highest increase in abortion since 2020

Between January 2020 and June 2023, New Mexico saw a larger increase in abortion than any other state, according to a new report. The…
Doctors encourage vaccinations for respiratory illnesses, including COVID

Doctors encourage vaccinations for respiratory illnesses, including COVID

Health officials from hospitals throughout the state encouraged New Mexicans to get vaccinated against three respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. After the U.S. Food and…
US Supreme Court expected to hear the abortion medication case this term

US Supreme Court expected to hear the abortion medication case this term

Two upcoming U.S. Supreme Court cases  this term could impact abortion rights and victims of domestic violence. The high court has not set a…
Indigenous Women Rising: Abortion fund budget has doubled since Dobbs

Indigenous Women Rising: Abortion fund budget has doubled since Dobbs

Representatives from the abortion fund provider Indigenous Women Rising told members of the Interim Indian Affairs Committee on Monday that their monthly abortion fund…
Study: New Mexico had highest increase in abortion since 2020

Study: New Mexico had highest increase in abortion since 2020

Between January 2020 and June 2023, New Mexico saw a larger increase in abortion than any other state, according to a new report. The…
Indigenous Women Rising: Abortion fund budget has doubled since Dobbs

Indigenous Women Rising: Abortion fund budget has doubled since Dobbs

Representatives from the abortion fund provider Indigenous Women Rising told members of the Interim Indian Affairs Committee on Monday that their monthly abortion fund…
Study: New Mexico had highest increase in abortion since 2020

Study: New Mexico had highest increase in abortion since 2020

Between January 2020 and June 2023, New Mexico saw a larger increase in abortion than any other state, according to a new report. The…
A human donor milk repository in Albuquerque needs to expand

A human donor milk repository in Albuquerque needs to expand

A human donor milk repository in Albuquerque has a growing demand and, with a need to expand, is exploring a private-public partnership to do…
Local election results certified, with some recounts pending

Local election results certified, with some recounts pending

The New Mexico State Canvass Board met Tuesday in Santa Fe to certify the official 2023 local election results. The State Canvass Board is…
NM Supreme Court hears gerrymandering oral arguments, decision to come at later date

NM Supreme Court hears gerrymandering oral arguments, decision to come at later date

Attorneys for both the Republican Party of New Mexico and Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver delivered oral arguments on Monday in the case…
Voter education campaign begins as voting begins in local elections

Voter education campaign begins as voting begins in local elections

Tuesday marked the beginning of early voting for local elections throughout the state. It also marked the beginning of a voter education public service…
Lujan Grisham renews executive order on gun violence

Lujan Grisham renews executive order on gun violence

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham renewed two executive orders establishing public health emergencies regarding gun violence and substance misuse.
Politics Newsletter: LFC Budget report

Politics Newsletter: LFC Budget report

The Dec. 4 politics newsletter includes Legislative Finance Committe revenue tracking report, countdown to the legislative session and Meanwhile on the Hill.
Illegal cattle grazing remains a problem in Valles Caldera National Preserve

Illegal cattle grazing remains a problem in Valles Caldera National Preserve

Legal grazing is allowed in an allotment in the national preserve and Tuell said the cattle grazed on that allotment have not caused problems…

GET INVOLVED

© 2023 New Mexico Political Report