Saskatchewan Auditor’s Report Says It’s Time to Begin Using Enforcement on Non-Compliant Cannabis Stores

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Sask. provincial auditor says it is high time regulators start enforcing the law on the distribution and sale of recreational cannabis.

Judy Ferguson’s latest report, her last one before she resigns at the end of this month, said the Sask. Liquor and Gaming Authority (SLGA) has thus far been focusing on educating retail and wholesale permittees regarding operating requirements.

The report says it is time for the authority to shift its focus

“to taking enforcement actions on non-compliance.”

She said investigators have found infractions at retail stores like employees not asking for identification, doing unlawful marketing and selling non-related cannabis products.

Investigators would write up the infractions and suggest sanctions, however, those sanctions were never followed through, according to Ferguson.

“So the communication didn’t get up to those permittees in terms of what they needed to do different,” Ferguson said “We were finding delays up to two to three months in getting those letters out the door. So what we’re saying is you need to move to that enforcement action to make sure that you are properly regulated in this area.”

At the time of the audit investigation, no fines had been issued to any retailers for non-compliance of regulations.

The report said that having proper regulatory processes will assist in preventing the sale of legal cannabis to young people, keep profits away from criminals and protect public health.

The report showed how some provincial ministries are enhancing processes, but also focused on necessary improvements.

Health incidents under-reported

The report additionally concluded that critical health cases are being under-reported.

Ferguson said the health ministry is not sending out alerts regarding these cases that could help prevent patient harm or possible death.

The four most common critical cases are falls that cause death, suicides whereas in care, medication errors and pressure ulcers from lying in bed in one position too long.

“Patient alerts are communications to the health-care sectors that should raise the profile and focus their attention on those areas, and to set out what they should do differently,” Ferguson said. “We found the ministry weren’t issuing patient alerts in those four areas.”

Ferguson additionally said the ministry was not asking the health authority what had caused these critical cases or even what facilities they had occurred in.

Ferguson said that in her opinion, the ministry could do a much better job in overseeing the area and that not sending out alerts increases the chances of the same errors occurring again.

Early learning improvements

Ferguson’s report also stated that improvements are needed when it comes to helping preschool-aged and kindergarten-aged kids develop academically.

The audit looked at the Saskatoon Public School Division No. 13’s processes for monitoring success in preparing kindergarten students for learning in the primary grades.

It said the preparedness of Saskatoon’s 1,500+ kindergarten students were 77%, which is same to the provincial average of 79% but below the provincial goal of 90%.

The audit said positive steps have been taken, including having a proper evaluation plan, and generally collecting and analyzing data.

In addition, it said the ministry was not collecting data regarding the progress of each child in the program.

“Without collecting such data, the ministry cannot determine whether individual children participating in the program receive sufficient support to learn and develop,” said the report.

The report also found kindergarten teachers didn’t always assess students at least twice a year as expected, or use suitable numeracy assessment tools.

The school division could not explain why some kindergarten students did not participate in required reassessments.

“Not collecting sufficient data about a student’s progress means teachers may not make appropriate changes to their instructional practices or seek alternate resources to help individual students succeed,” the report said.

Reducing short-term remand

Ferguson’s report stated the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General and the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety need to better track whether their strategies are helping reduce the number of people on short-term remand in Sask. and the surrounding area.

Over 40% of the annual average daily counts of people in custody in Sask. are on remand, according to the report.

Whereas the ministries have tried to reduce the short-term remand population in Saskatoon and the surrounding area by implementing early case resolution, community alternatives to remand and fast remand response, they aren’t measuring whether these tactics are working.

“Having set measurable targets, and collecting and analyzing key information from key external partners (e.g., policing services), would help them determine whether their strategies contribute to reducing the remand population,” the report said.

Tara Clemett will replace Ferguson as acting provincial auditor effective July 1.

Clemett has over 20 years of experience in financial, performance and IT auditing. Apparently, she is a deputy provincial auditor who leads the health division.

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