DOJ Busts New Mexico Spending Federal Money on Marijuana

By Tom Angell | April 18, 2017

A new report from the U.S. Department of Justice’s internal watchdog says that a New Mexico crime victims support commission inappropriately spent federal grant money on medical marijuana.

“While medical marijuana is permissible under New Mexico law, it is a banned substance under federal law,” reads a new audit from Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General.

The report looks at a sampling of reimbursements that the New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission (CVRC) funded with grants from the federal Office for Victims of Crime.

“[W]e identified $7,630 in total questioned costs,” the feds found. “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. We inquired as to any other medical marijuana purchased with federal funding and CVRC self-reported additional transactions totaling $2,966.”

Victim compensation grants under the program are used to help cover victims’ crime-related out-of-pocket expenses, including medical and dental care and counseling. They can also be used to cover lost income.

The new Justice Department report contains no details on the nature of the medical cannabis reimbursements or any information about the crimes by which the recipients were victimized.

“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. As a result, medical marijuana is an unallowable expenditure and cannot be paid for with federal grant funds,” the Justice Department report says.

The state commission later verified that the medical marijuana reimbursements “were removed from the grant and reallocated to another allowable victim compensation expenditure paid with state funding,” the Justice Department report says. “In addition, CVRC implemented new procedures to ensure that victim compensation payments reimbursed for medical marijuana purchases are paid from state funds in the future. We reviewed the documentation and determined it adequately addressed our recommendation.”

The federal Crime Victims Fund was established in 1984 and is funded in part by criminal fines and asset forfeitures.

Tom Angell

Tom Angell is a senior political correspondent for MassRoots. A 15-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he serves as chairman of the nonprofit Marijuana Majority and is editor of the daily Marijuana Moment newsletter.

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