Denver marijuana regulators’ oversight improved, but still lacking tax transparency, auditor says

Denver’s Office of Marijuana Policy has successfully implemented some suggestions made last year by the city’s auditor; however, the regulatory office continues to fall short on full transparency about how pot tax revenue is spent, a report released Thursday shows.

Denver Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien issued a follow-up report to his 2016 audit of the Office of Marijuana Policy.

The follow-up audit found the office had increased its outreach efforts — via hosting quarterly check-in meetings, publishing bulletins specific to the marijuana industry and by attending Registered Neighborhood Organization meetings. It also noted improvements in documentation for how the office has tracked and monitored its ongoing efforts.

The agency, however, needs to be more transparent about how marijuana revenues will be spent, according to the auditor.

“The department is working to improve transparency and outreach efforts,” O’Brien said in a statement accompanying the report. “It could still improve disclosure around specific planned uses of recreational marijuana tax revenues, to ensure the money is used as many voters wanted when they approved legalization of recreational marijuana.”

The 2018 budget includes how the approximately $21 million in special sales tax from retail marijuana should be spent: avenues such as regulation, enforcement education and public health efforts around marijuana, as well as deferred maintenance projects for transportation, parks and recreation centers.

However, specific programs or efforts were not described in a consistent manner in budget summaries, according to the report.

Additionally, O’Brien found that city marijuana regulators had only partially implemented a recommendation to improve documentation and monitoring progress.

A request for comment from the Office of Marijuana Policy was not immediately returned.

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