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.
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.
Have visited many treatment facilities. Every single treatment professional – EVERY SINGLE ONE- has told me “Marijuana is a gateway drug.” My office is preparing to enforce laws against marijuana aggressively – AGGRESSIVELY.
— US Attorney Mike Stuart (@USAttyStuart) March 9, 2018
Key word in Congress’ mandate – “Implementing.” States may implement w/out enforcement but no mention of enforcement after implementing. Today’s pot not pot of old – high THC, 4x the tar as tobacco, & other poisons in pot today. Pot is not cool at all. https://t.co/szMCJA1xjW
— US Attorney Mike Stuart (@USAttyStuart) March 5, 2018
This US Attorney will enforce federal marijuana laws. Congressional mandate to be respected but if law is expanded beyond express mandate, this US Attorney will aggressively take all possible action to protect public, children, citizens and communities. https://t.co/0BKiL8UMsX
— US Attorney Mike Stuart (@USAttyStuart) February 25, 2018
Federal law with respect to marijuana is crystal clear. The Cole memo has been rescinded. Interstate commerce requires compliance with federal law. Today’s marijuana is not naturally grown plant but genetically engineered hard drug. That’s just a fact. https://t.co/rsLjM8PWcD
— US Attorney Mike Stuart (@USAttyStuart) March 30, 2018
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.
Even if funding scheme is found, other big conflicts remain. Federal law expressly prohibits users/sellers of all marijuana from possessing firearms. Very strong 2d Amendment supporter but Congress makes laws and I shall aggressively enforce all laws. https://t.co/Do5WUp2j6w
— US Attorney Mike Stuart (@USAttyStuart) March 17, 2018
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.
Read: Here’s The Final 2018 Farm Bill That Will Legalize Hemp
The final text of the 2018 Farm Bill was released on Monday, and industrial hemp legalization made the cut. Votes to send the legislation to President Trump’s desk are expected this week.
The bipartisan provision, championed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), will enable U.S. farmers to cultivate, process and sell hemp, the market for which is now a multi-billion dollar industry.
Following the announcement last month that lawmakers in the Senate and House Agriculture Committees had reconciled their respective versions of the agriculture legislation—with hemp legalization in the mix—questions remained about a controversial provision in the Senate version that would ban people with felony drug convictions from participating in the hemp industry.
But a compromise was reached and the final version will allow such individuals to work for hemp businesses after 10 years.
Read the text of the final 2018 Farm Bill’s hemp provisions here, followed by explanatory statements from the conference committee:
Farm Bill Hemp Provisions by on Scribd
Marijuana Moment excerpted the above sections dealing with hemp from the full 807-page Farm Bill and committee explanatory documentation.
“While this Farm Bill is a missed opportunity, there are some good provisions,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) said in a press release. “One of those provisions is to roll back our senseless hemp prohibition.”
“Our forefathers would be rolling in their graves if they saw us putting restraints on a versatile product that they grew themselves. We have farmers growing thousands of acres of hemp in dozens of states across the U.S. already. You can have hemp products shipped to your doorstep. This is a mainstream, billion-dollar industry that we have made difficult for farmers. It’s past time Congress gets out of their way.”
Under the legislation, hemp would no longer be in the jurisdiction of the Justice Department. Rather, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will lightly regulate the crop.
If the bill passes and President Trump signs it, hemp legalization will go into effect on January 1, according to VoteHemp.
Watch: Sen. Mitch McConnell Uses Hemp Pen To Sign Farm Bill Legalizing The Crop
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) signed off on the final version of the 2018 Farm Bill on Monday…and he used a pen made of marijuana’s non-psychoactive cousin, hemp, to so do.
The senator has been the leading proponent of an industrial hemp legalization provision, which recently made its way into the final version of the wide-ranging agriculture legislation.
“Making it official with my hemp pen,” McConnell wrote in a tweet that includes video of him signing off on the proposal. “Proud to have served as conferee on Farm Bill & to fight for Kentucky priorities.”
Making it official with my hemp pen!🖋️ Proud to have served as conferee on #FarmBill & to fight for #Kentucky priorities. With today's signature, my provision to legalize industrial #hemp is 1 step closer to reality. Looking forward to voting YES on this bill & sending to @POTUS pic.twitter.com/8ypwBebXy7
— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) December 10, 2018
“With today’s signature, my provision to legalize industrial hemp is 1 step closer to reality. Looking forward to voting YES on this bill & sending to [President Donald Trump].”
The full text of the final Farm Bill legislation is expected to be publicly released on Tuesday, with votes anticipated in the House and Senate in the coming days.
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.
New York Governor May Include Marijuana Legalization In Budget Proposal Next Month
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) might just go ahead and include full marijuana legalization in his budget proposal set to come out next month, Crain’s reported on Monday.
Two state lawmakers told the outlet that they’d heard rumors about the governor’s plan, which would build on his recent efforts to put legalization on the table during the next legislative session. Cuomo instructed a working group to draft legalization legislation in August after the state Department of Health came out with a report that found the pros of ending cannabis prohibition outweigh the cons.
If the historically anti-marijuana governor, who as recently as last year was calling cannabis a “gateway drug,” did put legalization in his budget proposal, it’d mean “the state could have a fiscal framework for the program as soon as April,” Crain’s reported.
What exactly that fiscal framework would look like is unclear, and Cuomo’s office declined to comment on the report. It’s possible that the budget would account for the costs of whatever legislation the working group ultimately releases; however, since the bill has yet to be released and the governor’s proposal is expected for January, that might be cutting it close.
In 2014, reform advocates expressed disappointment after Cuomo and leading lawmakers agreed to a budget deal that did not include a medical marijuana legalization bill. Months later, Cuomo signed separate medical cannabis legislation and, in the years since, the governor has grown more amenable to broader reform—especially in the heat of a contentious primary battle against Cynthia Nixon this year.
When the state does go forward with legalization, money is going to be a point of particular interest for lawmakers and advocates, as can already be seen as a debate over a proposal to use cannabis sales tax revenue for public transit in New York City intensified last week.
Photo courtesy of Zack Seward.