A Florida political candidate has said that Wells Fargo has closed her campaign accounts because of her pro-cannabis stance. Nikki Fried, a Democratic candidate for state agricultural commissioner, said during a press conference on Monday that the move by the financial institution is “unprecedented” and “emblematic of what is wrong with our government and politics today,” according to a report in local media.
Fried said that she had exchanged emails with Wells Fargo about her support of medical marijuana and political contributions from donors with ties to the cannabis industry.
When representatives of the bank then notified her that the accounts were going to be closed, Fried said at first she thought they were joking.
“I’m a candidate,” Fried said. “I am not touching the plant, I am not selling the plant, I am not producing the plant. I’m simply advocating for the expansion of medical marijuana and that was the reason for (Wells Fargo) closing me down. Secondhand, it was the fact I was taking money from lobbyists who represent the industry.”
Fried speculated that Wells Fargo may be planning similar action with other professionals and businesses connected to legal cannabis.
“And I wonder how many other accounts they are not looking at across the country…or any of the law firms or any of the other lobbying shops that have clients for medical marijuana,” Fried added.
Fried said that she believes that there may be a political motivation behind the closing of her campaign accounts by the bank.
“They know I understand the industry across the state and across the U.S., that I am advocating for the expansion, that I’m vocal on these issues, and because I believe that the rest of the state knows I have a real shot of winning this in November,” Fried said.
Cannabis Businesses Face Similar Plight
Fried said that her situation is similar to that of legal cannabis business nationwide. Despite the fact that the use of medical marijuana has been approved by a majority of the states, federal banking regulations make it difficult if not impossible for banks to take deposits or provide other financial services to cannabis companies. Because of this, firms are forced to operate on a cash basis, making them targets for robbery and other crime.
Fried said that the federal government is discriminating against a legal industry and called for changes to the law.
“At a time when 30 states including Washington, D.C., have legalized medical marijuana and licensed businesses to practice and distribute marijuana to patients and caregivers, access to basic financial stability is virtually impossible for these legal businesses,” Fried said. “Outdated federal laws allow for this sort of discrimination.”
Florida legalized the medicinal use of cannabis in 2016 with the passage of the Florida Medical Marijuana Legalization Initiative. The constitutional amendment was supported by more than 71 percent of voters in a statewide election.
Fried said that her campaign has moved its accounts and they are now being held at BB&T bank. Wells Fargo has not commented on the matter.