By JAKE ZUCKERMAN
State Treasurer John Perdue proposed legislative changes Thursday to patch up West Virginia’s financial infrastructure behind a medical marijuana program scheduled to start next year.
In a letter to Gov. Jim Justice, Perdue offered two options to enable the state treasury to handle funds within the medical cannabis program.
Perdue notified Justice in March that his vendors had opted against participating in the program, citing conflicts in state and federal law regarding marijuana.
One option Perdue submitted would be to create a third-party loop system, in which payments could be made within a network of entities that have accounts with the system, such as patients, caregivers, growers and processors.
That system could be “closed-loop” – meaning entities within the program would use accounts created specifically for the program – or “open loop.”
These loops, the letter states, could allow the state government to oversee the accounts and monitor for security and fraud prevention.
The second option offered in the letter would be to create a state-owned bank. The specifics would depend on the legislation offered, but Diana Stout, general counsel for Perdue, said the bank could operate under a charter specifically tailored for purchases related to medical marijuana.
Stout said North Dakota is the only state with its own bank, although several others, such as Maryland, California, Nevada and Washington, are looking into it because of problems they’re having with their own vendors.
“It’s not like there’s just one, concrete little way of doing this,” Stout said.
In a news release issued with the letter, Perdue said he and his staff were left out of discussions related to implementing the program.
“It is my fiduciary responsibility to follow state laws and conduct the banking business of the state in a safe and secure manner,” he