Treasurer proposes banking solutions for new medical marijuana program

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Treasurer John Perdue is asking Governor Jim Justice to consider possible banking options when it comes to handling funds for the new medical marijuana program.

John Perdue

Perdue sent a letter to Justice Thursday outlining two potential solutions: (1) Establishing a state bank or (2) Establishing a third-party loop system through a vendor.

Each option would require legislative action.

In the letter, Perdue said in an effort to find a lawful banking solution, his office has reached out to stakeholders on both the state and national levels and has contacted research into how other states process medical marijuana funds.

Earlier this year, banks told the state Treasurer’s Office they are “uncomfortable” and “unwilling” to process funds related to medical cannabis in the state because the drug is against federal law.

Justice signed the Medical Cannabis Act into law in April 2017.

Josh Stowers

The state has to deposit money from growers and processors, but needs vendors to process the funds. Currently, West Virginia does not have vendors on contract that are willing to take the money.

Assistant Treasurer Josh Stowers said they have a responsibility to find a reasonable solution to handle the money.

“We want to help fix this issue and quickly,” he said. “To get product ready for the implementation, we need to solve this problem sooner rather than later.”

Patients and caregivers will be issued identification cards beginning on July 1, 2019. Stowers said this issue could effect the program start date.

The banking solution would need to be voted on in the Legislature this year in order to keep the program on track.

“That would be up to the governor as to whether he chose to put this on the Special Session call or not, if he has a Special Session,” Stowers said.

Current state law only allows marijuana to be sold in pills; oils; for vaporization; in topical forms, like gels, creams or ointments; tinctures; liquids or dermal patches. Smokable and pre-made edible forms of marijuana are not permitted.

West Virginia was the 29th state to pass medical marijuana legislation.

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