The Department of Justice reimbursed crime victims for $7,630 in medical marijuana costs, according to an audit from the agency’s inspector general.
The audit evaluated the performance of the Victims of Crime Act grants to the New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission to see how the commission implemented these assistance programs.
The Victims of Crime Act established the crime victims fund, which provides financial support for crisis counseling, shelter, therapy, criminal justice support and advocacy, and telephone and onsite information and referrals for victims of crime.
“Victim compensation grants are made to enhance state victim compensation programs that provide financial assistance and reimbursement to victims for crime-related out-of-pocket expenses, including medical and dental care, counseling, funeral and burial expenses, and lost wages and income,” the audit states.
While the auditors found that crime victim services were overall enhanced by the funding, they did find four instances in which money was spent on medical marijuana.
“Although we did not identify issues with the timeliness of the claim or supporting documentation for any of the sampled transactions, we did find grant funds were used to reimburse a victim for medical marijuana in the amount of $4,663,” the audit states. “We inquired as to any other medical marijuana purchased with federal funding and [New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission] self-reported additional transactions totaling $2,966.”
“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 auditors state. “As a result, medical marijuana is an unallowable expenditure and cannot be paid for with federal grant funds.”
The inspector general recommended that the agency remedy the payments, and the agency responded that they would do so.
“We have remedied the recommendation by reimbursing the federal grant award for 2014-VC-GX-0038 and reallocated the amount of $7,629.60 to another allowable victim expenditure,” said Frank Zubia, director of the New Mexico Crime Victim Reparation Commission.
“The New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission agrees with the OIG’s recommendation and we have used this opportunity to make internal procedural changes to ensure that this issue is avoided in the future,” he said. “Our staff is passionate and conscientiously committed to serving victims in our state and we would be happy to respond to any questions or provide additional information in this regard.”
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