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Amid Federal Threats, State Treasurer Pushes For Marijuana Banking Access



In the face of threats from one of the state’s federal prosecutors, West Virginia’s top fiscal official is calling on the Trump administration to clarify its position on whether marijuana growers and sellers should be able to put their profits in banks.

“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,” Treasurer John Perdue said in a press release on Friday. “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.”

Because of ongoing federal criminalization of cannabis, many banks are reluctant to work with marijuana businesses that operate legally in accordance with a growing number of state laws. As a result, those entities must often operate on a cash-only basis.

Perdue, who is announcing a series of moves to step up pressure on the federal government to resolve the issue, said last month that his office was “unwilling to accept the funds derived from medical cannabis” due to conflicts with federal law. In response to that stance, Gov. Jim Justice (R), who signed medical marijuana into law last year, line item vetoed the transfer of funds to the program in the state budget, saying that officials should hold off on implementation until a fiscal solution materializes.

Now, Perdue, a Democrat, says he will send a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “asking for clear banking guidance dealing with medical marijuana-related transactions.”

And on Monday, his office is releasing a Request for Information in search of “banking solutions for sales, fees, licenses, taxes and other transactions related to state sanctioned medical cannabis.”

“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,” Perdue said. “Once we have more facts, we may be able to solicit for a workable contract on behalf of the state.”

Perdue’s push comes as the top fiscal officials in four other states requested a meeting with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to discuss cannabis businesses’ access to banks, and as members of Congress are stepping up the push for a legislative solution.

State Treasurers Want Marijuana Meeting With Sessions

In the press release, the West Virginia treasurer said he would join at least ten top fiscal officials from other states in a separate letter to congressional leaders calling for “commonsense legislative changes to protect medical marijuana patients.”

Mike Stuart, the U.S. attorney for West Virginia’s Southern District, has repeatedly signaled he intends to enforce federal marijuana laws regardless of the state’s move to legalize medical cannabis.

Now, the state treasurer is requesting clarity on the issue from Stuart’s bosses in the federal government.

“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,” he said in the new press release. “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.”

But Stuart indicated that even if West Virginia officials fix banking issues, he wouldn’t hold off on enforcing federal laws, including those that bar medical cannabis patients from purchasing guns.

Mnuchin, the federal treasury secretary, has indicated on a number of occasions that he sees solving cannabis businesses’ access to financial services as an important issue.

Marijuana Banking At “Top Of The List,” Treasury Secretary Says

Trump Treasury Secretary Wants Marijuana Money In Banks

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Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy.


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