CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The House of Delegates quickly passed HB 2538, the medical cannabis program banking bill, on Friday. There was no debate and no floor speeches.

The bill creates two state funds. The primary one is the Medical Cannabis Program Fund designed to receive license fees, penalties and taxes associated with the program. The other is the Treasurer’s Medical Cannabis Fund created to receive all fees charged to the chosen financial institution by the treasurer and to be spent on oversight and compliance expenses.

The treasurer will select by competitive bid one or more financial institutions to handle banking services for the fund. The institution may be a bank, credit union or a “non-bank financial institution.”

Once federal law changes and it becomes legal for banks to handle program money, the contract or contracts will end and the money will be transferred to the institution holding the state concentration account, meaning the single account it uses to write checks.

As delegates learned in committee, the bank holding the state’s checking account, BB&T, won’t handle cannabis money. Other institutions have expressed interest but won’t step up. So this bill is an effort to stir the interest of credit unions to bid on a contract.

The vote was 89-7. The bill now heads to the Senate.

Elder abuse bill

There was extensive debate on a more obscure bill, HB 2618. Its stated purpose is “to include undue influence as a factor in the definition of financial exploitation of an incapacitated person, elderly person or protected person.”

The debate was over the subjectivity of the factors a court is permitted to weigh when determining undue influence.

Among the factors are the vulnerability of the victim, the influencer’s apparent authority, the actions or tactics used by the influencer.

Delegate Brandon Steele, R-Raleigh, focused on the influencer’s “use of affection” and remarked that showing affection could put someone in prison for 2 to 20 years.

Supporters gave some anecdotal accounts of family members bilking their parents or grandparents out of thousands of dollars and noted that the AARP is backing the bill.

The vote was 84-11 also sending the bill to the Senate for consideration.

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