West Virginia AG: Banks risk defying fed law when serving medical cannabis firms

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West Virginia’s financial institutions face risks when providing banking services to medical marijuana businesses because cannabis is illegal under federal law, the state’s attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, wrote in a new opinion.

Banking has been one sticking point in the rollout of West Virginia’s medical cannabis program, which has been delayed by disagreements over rulemaking.

According to Morrisey’s opinion, the state will have to consider banking as it looks at how to implement its 2017 medical cannabis law.

Morrisey noted he’s unaware of any federal enforcement in states where medical marijuana is legal that have had “safe harbors” in place for the past few years.

The opinion, released Jan. 11, said there’s no assurance the federal government’s nonenforcement policies will continue but that states can develop regulations intended to help financial institutions comply with safe harbor provisions.

Still, Morrisey said any permanent resolution must come from the federal government.

West Virginia Treasurer John Perdue and House Speaker Roger Hanshaw requested the opinion.

Last May, Perdue proposed that state lawmakers consider adopting either a closed-loop payment system or open a state-owned bank to be operated by the state Treasurer’s office. Both options would require action from legislators.

Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily