Prepares to release Request for Information, urges commonsense approach
In an effort to find lawful banking solutions for medical marijuana in West Virginia, State Treasurer John Perdue’s office announced it plans to do the following:
- Release a Request for Information (RFI) in search of banking solutions for sales, fees, licenses, taxes and other transactions related to state sanctioned medical cannabis in West Virginia;
- Join with at least 10 other state treasurers in sending a letter to congressional leadership urging commonsense legislative changes to protect medical marijuana patients;
- Send a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking for clear banking guidance dealing with medical marijuana-related transactions.
“I support the rights of my fellow West Virginians, and I recognize the need for medical marijuana as an option for people who are suffering,” said Treasurer Perdue. “I want to do everything in my power to move our state toward a lawful solution; however, I want to be clear that there are real banking challenges at the federal level that my office may not be able to resolve alone.”
The RFI, to be released by Monday, April 2, will seek information about lawful solutions to cannabis banking functions and/or assuming associated banking risks. Responses will be due back to the state in April. Entities with helpful information concerning the marijuana banking industry are encouraged to respond.
“Our hope is to find a banking alternative, similar to other states that have legalized medical marijuana, in an effort to move forward with offering this option to those who need it in West Virginia,” said Treasurer Perdue. “Once we have more facts, we may be able to solicit for a workable contract on behalf of the state.”
Banking vendors currently on contract with the state notified the Treasurer that they will not accept deposits related to marijuana sales, citing federal banking laws. As a result, Treasurer Perdue sent a letter to Governor Jim Justice, state legislative leadership and others in early March regarding obstacles associated with state legalized medical marijuana banking.
In addition to the RFI, Treasurer Perdue is asking for swift changes at the federal level.
“The fact is that the fate of medical marijuana in West Virginia depends on how President Trump’s administration approaches the enforcement of marijuana and banking laws,” Perdue said. “At the very least, I want West Virginia to be treated like all other states that have implemented or started implementation of a medical marijuana program.”
In January of this year, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memo, which previously provided low-priority guidance on the law enforcement and prosecution of activity related to state sanctioned marijuana. West Virginia would be the first state to start implementation of a medical marijuana program under this new direction on the federal level.
In a separate move, the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer (Farr) Amendment was renewed in the federal budget signed into law last week. Rohrabacher-Blumenauer prevents the U.S. Department of Justice from using federal funds to prosecute state-compliant medical marijuana operations; however, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia has publicly indicated he will aggressively enforce federal marijuana laws and that cannabis banking functions may be prosecuted separately, under federal banking laws.
“There are a lot of mixed messages on the federal level regarding this issue,” Perdue said. “Congress can fix this, and I am asking for federal changes on behalf of our citizens. If you are passionate about this issue, I encourage you to also contact your congressional leaders and urge them to make changes that allow us to fully and lawfully conduct business in our state.”
In 2017, West Virginia lawmakers legalized medical marijuana. However, marijuana is currently a Schedule I drug, as defined by the federal Controlled Substances Act.Request For Information