Nikki Fried is a Democrat running for agriculture commissioner in Florida who has made her support of medical marijuana very clear to those around her. Unfortunately, Wells Fargo responded poorly with her advocacy of the drug and has decided to close her bank account where her campaign held an account, due to suspicions about her platform.
She ran a lobbying firm named Igniting Florida before entering the race for agriculture commissioner. She describes herself as “one of most visible faces and key activists in Florida’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry.”
Wells Fargo claims they have a policy against serving marijuana-related businesses. The bank noticed that Fried was “advocating for expanded patient access to medical marijuana” and asked the campaign whether they would be receiving money from “lobbyists from the medical marijuana industry in any capacity” back in June.
The campaign responded by notifying the bank that yes, Fried would be receiving donations for her campaign through lobbyists as well as “executives, employees and corporations in the medical marijuana industry.”
Within the last week, the campaign announced they received a written notice through Wells Fargo that the account has been closed. Since then, Nikki Fried has begun urging her supports to consider pulling their money from the bank and closing the account.
In a telephone interview Fried stated, “This is absolutely unprecedented. I’ve been in this campaign since the beginning of June. Everybody in Florida knows that I’m one of the main proponents of the expansion of medical marijuana.”
Wells Fargo isn’t the first bank that has closed a customer’s account over money that could be related to sales of marijuana. Banks have been dealing with this conflict for more than a decade. A Wells Fargo spokeswoman declined to discuss Nikki Fried’s case, but said the bank has a policy of avoiding the marijuana industry.
“It is Wells Fargo’s policy not to knowingly bank or provide services to marijuana businesses or for activities related to those businesses, based on federal laws under which the sale and use of marijuana is illegal even if state laws differ,” Spokeswoman Bridget Braxton said in a statement. “We continually review our banking relationships to ensure we adhere to strict regulatory and risk guidelines.”
Banks in general take a cue from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which offers a checklist of several things to keep in mind when providing banking services to legal marijuana businesses in hopes of banks avoiding services to criminals.
“We expect banks to assess the risks posed by individual customers on a case-by-case basis and to implement appropriate controls to manage their relationships,” said Bryan Hubbard, a spokesman for the agency.
Fried now holds her campaign account with BB&T, which does not have policies that prevent the candidate from banking there. Wells Fargo appears to stand alone on the issue. Representatives for Bank of America, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase say their respective banks do not have polices that would prevent pro-marijuana advocates like Fried to use services.