Florida bank, medical cannabis business association sever ties

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SunTrust Bank and the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida officially ended their banking relationship, weeks after the financial institution gave notice it would terminate the account the group opened in 2014.

“I spoke with the management at SunTrust several times and we were working on a way to keep (the account) open, but at the end of the day the restrictions were a little too difficult to overcome,” Jeffrey Sharkey, the association’s executive director, wrote in an email to Marijuana Business Daily.

“We amicably agreed to close the account. They were trying to be helpful, but they felt the risk was too high.”

SunTrust was criticized by state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried for sending the notice last month.

Fried herself experienced challenges around maintaining a campaign banking account when she ran for office as a pro-medical marijuana Democrat. Her campaign accounts were closed last year by Wells Fargo and BB&T.

Sharkey said the association has “another banking option we are exploring now.”

The relationship ended with some levity, Sharkey noted: “I jokingly said I would bet $1,000 they would come to me in two years asking for cannabis businesses to bank” once financial institutions are protected at the federal level or the U.S. government legalizes marijuana.