Session #15

Legalized Marijuana: Accounting, Auditing and Economic Impact 
4:15 – 5:05 p.m.   
CPE Field of Study: Auditing (Governmental)

PPT Presentation

This session will discuss an initiative the state of Minnesota has taken to analyze the pricing of medical cannabis products and the audits the state of Colorado has conducted to assess the degree of controls there are in place to minimize the risk of tax evasion and the diversion of marijuana products to illegal markets. 


Dianne E. Ray is responsible for overseeing independent audits and reviews that hold government agencies accountable and promote positive change in government. As head of the Office of the State Auditor (OSA), Dianne leads a staff of experienced professionals who conduct performance, financial, and IT audits and evaluations and track independent audits of local governments in the state. Under Dianne’s leadership as State Auditor, the Office has received 14 national awards for audits and evaluations.

Dianne was first unanimously appointed by the General Assembly to the position of state auditor in May 2011 for a five-year term and was unanimously reappointed in April 2016 for an additional five years. She has specialized in governmental accounting and auditing for more than 25 years. Dianne possesses in-depth knowledge of Colorado's state and local governments.

Dianne has extensive experience in senior-level management positions and has been recognized for her innovative leadership style. In 2012, the Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants named Dianne as one of three “Women to Watch” in the Experienced Leader category. In May 2015, the University of Colorado-Denver's School of Public Affairs awarded Dianne the 2015 Leo Reithmeyer Award for the Top Public Administrator in Colorado. In August 2016, the President of the National Association of State Auditors, Controllers, and Treasurers named Dianne as recipient of the annual President's Award. In June 2020, she was awarded the William L. Snodgrass Distinguished Leader Award by the National State Auditors’ Association.

In June 2020, Dianne was appointed to serve a 5-year term on the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, beginning July 1, 2020. In 2016, Dianne was appointed by the U.S. Comptroller General to serve a 4-year term (2016-2020) on the Advisory Council on Government Auditing Standards, which includes experts from federal, state, and local government; the private sector; and academia to review and recommend necessary changes to standards that guide the government auditing profession. In 2018, Dianne was appointed by the U.S. Comptroller General to serve on the Domestic Working Group, a forum for members to discuss topics of mutual interest, address common concerns, and promote collaborative efforts in the accountability community in the U.S.

Dianne served as the president of the National State Auditors Association for the 2015-2016 term. Dianne is also a member of the board of the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, chair of the Audit Committee, and former board chair.

Chris Tholkes brings over 20 years of experience working in the public and nonprofit sectors. She is currently the director of the Office of Medical Cannabis at the Minnesota Department of Health. Previously she served as assistant division director for the Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives, which includes the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP), Tobacco Use Prevention Grants and Tribal Grants.

Her additional experience includes serving as a program officer for Otto Bremer Foundation, a staff lobbyist and senior policy manager for ClearWay Minnesota, as executive director of Minnesota’s youth, anti-tobacco industry organization, Target Market and as the director of tobacco control for the American Lung Association of Minnesota. She has additional experience working in county and state public health departments, in tobacco control and HIV/AIDS prevention.

She holds a bachelors in community health education from Minnesota State Moorhead and a master’s in public administration from Hamline University.

Steven Whitney is a senior manager with BerryDunn and an attorney with over 35 years of experience working with state and local government clients. Steve specializes in helping state and local agencies identify ways to increase their revenues and analyze their programs to identify what activities drive their costs so that the agency can better align their costs with their goals and objectives. In addition, Steve has extensive experience auditing health insurance exchanges, child welfare, juvenile services, and other health and human service programs.
Steve led the performance evaluation of the Colorado’s Department of Revenue’s administration of the state’s recreational and medical cannabis market to assess what controls are in place to minimize the risk of diversion of cannabis from the regulated market. Steve also served a lead role on the price analysis study of medical cannabis in Minnesota. Steve’s background in revenue and cost management provides an informed foundation for services including cost and budget analysis, and process improvement projects. Steve utilizes his experience to successfully translate needs for increased revenues, lower costs and improved processes into practical, collaborative projects that help clients transform their agencies.

Yoko McCarthy is a senior manager in BerryDunn’s Government Consulting Group. Yoko leads the compliance and risk management practice, which focuses on compliance assurance services to assess the extent to which our clients have proper controls in place to meet applicable requirements to protect their resources from waste, abuse, and fraud, and to help them improve their accountability and operational efficiency. Since joining BerryDunn in 2012, Yoko has been helping state and local government strengthen internal controls and improve business processes while maintaining compliance.
Yoko’s experience and passion for data analytics provides a foundation for services including program integrity, financial process improvement, financial and programmatic audits, forensic accounting, and risk assessment of fraud, abuse, and waste.
Yoko led the medical cannabis price study for Minnesota, in which her team analyzed Minnesota’s medical cannabis prices and sales data, calculated an average 30-day spend by registered patients, and compared prices of equivalent medical cannabis products in the six sampled states. Yoko also served a lead role on the performance evaluation of the Colorado’s Department of Revenue’s administration of the state’s recreational and medical cannabis market to assess what controls are in place to minimize the risk of diversion of cannabis from the regulated market.


The NASACT Community

NASACT serves as the premier organization working to bring together state auditors, state comptrollers and state treasurers to cooperatively address government financial management issues. NASACT also manages two secretariats - the National State Auditors Association (NSAA) and the National Association of State Comptrollers (NASC). Both NSAA and NASC are included under the umbrella of NASACT’s budget and utilize staff hired by NASACT.