Wells Fargo closes account of Florida candidate who backs medical cannabis

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In an election-year example of banks’ reluctance to affiliate with the cannabis industry, Wells Fargo terminated the campaign account of a Florida agriculture commissioner candidate because she supports medical marijuana.

The move underscores the perils of political candidates who advocate on behalf of the cannabis industry – and, if more widespread, could hamper pro-MJ reform efforts.

Here are the basics surrounding the situation:

  • Democrat Nikki Fried reported Monday that the banking giant had started asking questions after uncovering information that her campaign was advocating for expanded access to medical marijuana.
  • Fried said she responded in July that she had lobbied for medical marijuana companies and received contributions from MMJ lobbyists.
  • Then, just weeks before the Aug. 28 primary, Wells Fargo said it was shutting down her account, based on a review of its banking risks.

Florida voters legalized medical marijuana in 2016, but some banks are reluctant to do business with an industry that remains illegal under federal law.

Wells Fargo had no immediate comment Monday.

As recently as June, the chairman of the Federal Reserve said federally chartered banks such as Wells Fargo were in a difficult position and seemed to caution them from serving marijuana businesses until lawmakers clarified the discrepancies between state and federal law.

A number of marijuana reform bills have been introduced in Congress to resolve banking and other issues, but experts are skeptical anything will pass before midterm elections in November.

In the meantime, developments like Fried’s “will certainly have political and electoral consequences,” according to Arnaud Dumas de Rauly, co-CEO of The Blinc Group, a business development service for the cannabis industry.

– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily