Oversight Of Industrial Hemp In New York Found Lacking

Industrial hemp audit - New York
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An audit by the Office of the New York State Comptroller of the state’s industrial hemp program found a number of issues of concern.

The objective of the audit was to determine if the Department of Agriculture and Markets was adequately administering New York’s hemp program in accordance with federal and State requirements.

In short, it appears it hasn’t – or at least wasn’t.

The audit covered the period April 1, 2016 through May 31, 2019. Releasing the results six months after the fact doesn’t really give an accurate picture of what may be happening now, but the Department was made aware of the issues earlier on in the year and supported recommendations made by the Comptroller.

The audit report notes the Department wasn’t always following established practices when reviewing applications, carrying out inspections and taking samples from crops. Among the issues were only 57 percent of growers participating in the program were inspected and only 58 percent of growers’ crops were tested for THC levels last year.

“While the Department indicated that staffing shortages and competing priorities factored into its inability to inspect and sample all growers, incomplete records and unreliable data systems hinder effective monitoring and informed decision making,” states the report.

It also states it couldn’t always be determined from the Department’s records whether planting occurred or not – and follow-up wasn’t always being performed to determine this.

Another issue of concern raised was the Department generally accepting most grower applications, even if applications were incomplete or contained risk factors that officials stated they screen for during review.

In a letter from the Department of Agriculture and Markets dated October 31 2019 accompanying the report, the Department notes its agreement with the recommendations provided and stated that work was already under way to improve program oversight.

New York’s hemp cultivation sector has seen rapid growth, with the number of participants jumping from 156 in December 2018 to 419 in July 2019.

In other recent related news, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation into law in December establishing a regulatory framework for the production and sale of hemp and hemp extract in the state.