Money question plagues medical marijuana's startup in West Virginia

HUNTINGTON – As a law passed last year envisioned it, West Virginia patients with certain ailments will be able to purchase medical cannabis cards in about a year from now. However, unless the state’s government acts quickly, there won’t be any medicine to purchase.

Because U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions staunchly opposes marijuana and lifted an Obama administration policy in order to allow federal prosecutors to more aggressively pursue cases in states that have legalized marijuana, banks in West Virginia are unwilling to participate in the exchange of money in the medical marijuana system out of fear of federal repercussions.

It’s a hiccup that was realized in February. While there were some moves made to address the issue along with other recommendations from the state’s medical cannabis advisory board, the Legislature failed to pass any bills relating to medical marijuana this year.

Because of that obstacle, the process of establishing a medical marijuana industry in the state is on hold, squeezing the amount of time for the industry to have marijuana products ready by this time next year.

In May, state Treasurer John Perdue sent a letter to Gov. Jim Justice, the leaders of both the House of Delegates and Senate and Dr. Rahul Gupta, state health officer and commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Resources, outlining two possible solutions to the banking issue.

The first suggestion is a closed-loop system. Josh Stowers, assistant treasurer, said all individuals who participate in the medical marijuana system – patients, growers, processors, etc. – would set up accounts within the system and all transactions would occur within that system. Patients would most likely need to load money into an account within the system.

The state would contract with

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