House Democrats continued a push to add a banking fix for the state’s medical marijuana program as the Legislature gaveled into special session Sunday evening, a topic left off the session call by Gov. Jim Justice.
State Treasurer John Perdue previously sent a letter to legislative leadership and the governor proposing two options for processing funds after banking vendors on contract with the state notified his office that they would not accept deposits related to marijuana sales.
Democrats introduced the West Virginia Medical Cannabis Banking Act Sunday night, which seeks to implement a closed-loop system.
Delegate Mike Caputo, D-Marion, moved to take the bill up for immediate consideration but his motion was defeated in a 32-56 vote. The bill then was triple referenced to the committees on Health and Human Resources, Finance, and Banking and Insurance.
Delegate Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, one of the sponsors of the bill, said the triple committee reference essentially killed the bill since the Banking and Insurance committee is not meeting.
“It’s not going anywhere,” Bates said. “It’s been committee referenced to three committees, one of which isn’t meeting. But we’re not done yet.”
Bates said the bill is modeled after Colorado and Ohio in creating a closed-loop system.
“Everyone participating in the program would operate similar to Paypal, where you have a card or account,” Bates said. “It would enable you to transact monies through that system outside of the banking system with appropriate security. And it would come with protections in place to make sure it’s not used by people who aren’t able to use the program.”
House Speaker Tim Armstead said since the bill is not on the call, he doesn’t believe it is constitutional to take it up.
“We’ve had a tradition in the House that we allow for any bill to be introduced but to act on that, there needs to be a ruling that it is constitutional, and I don’t believe it is constitutional because the constitution is very clear that the governor gets to decide what issues are placed on the agenda when he calls a special session,” Armstead said. “He has issued a detailed proclamation that says these are the issues we are going to take up. That is not on the call. I don’t believe it can in fact be acted on.”
Bates said legislators can add a bill to the call but it needs two-thirds approval of both houses. A legislative petition is currently circulating and Bates said as of Sunday night, it has 26 signatures.
“We’re going to try but I’m not particularly optimistic that it will get done in the two days we’re here with the other items that are on the call,” Bates said. “What it does do is send a clear signal to the governor’s office and to legislative leadership that we need to get this issue taken care of. We are attempting to bring it to the forefront and change the priorities of this Legislature.”