Audit: Portland’s cannabis program struggles with ‘fundamentals’

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — An audit released by Portland officials says the city’s cannabis regulation program is struggling with the “fundamentals” required to meet the needs of overseeing the emerging industry.

Released Thursday, the audit says the Office of Community and Civic Life, which oversees Portland’s cannabis industry with different bureaus in addition to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, lacks a clear strategy to guide cannabis businesses and the program; a solid budget for implementation; a way to collect information about the industry; and a plan to report on progress, which could reveal how the program needs to evolve to meet the needs of the industry, which was formed after Oregon voters approved to legalize marijuana in 2014.

One of the inefficiencies pointed out in the audit was the way the state and city overlap in licensing and inspecting the cannabis business, which could create an “undue burden on applicants.” Furthermore, there could be issues with the data compiled in the licensing process, since the audit found the Excel spreadsheet used by the city’s cannabis program “is prone to crashing.”

Data gathered by Portland’s cannabis program on complaints and enforcement are not in a centralized, consistent place, either, according to the city’s auditors, leaving the city unable to “produce valid reports on program performance.”

In a letter responding to the audit report, Suk Rhee, director of the Office of Community and Civic Life, and a City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly wrote they “largely agree with the recommendations,” but contested a few points they said required more context.

“The effort to develop a city-wide strategy requires alignment of perspectives on regulation from City Council,” they wrote. “The program did not benefit from such alignment in the first three of its four years in existence; emerging agreement over this last year is a positive step forward for the City.”

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