Cannabis and banking have not had a good relationship since the herb started to become legal at a state level. Banks shy away from conducting any business with cannabis-related companies simply because they are afraid of potential backlash from the federal government. It causes a lot of problems for businesses trying to operate legitimately in a state-legal industry – and now it apparently causes problems for politicians who take donations from the cannabis industry as well.
Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for Florida Agriculture Commissioner (and former lobbyist who worked with medical marijuana, among other things), was dropped as a client by banking giant Wells Fargo for taking donations from – and advocating for – the medical marijuana industry.
“As part of the onboarding of the client it was uncovered some information regarding the customers [sic] political platform and that they are advocating for expanding patient access to medical marijuana,” Antoinette Infante, a vice president and senior relationship manager at Wells Fargo, wrote in a July 11 email to the Fried campaign’s compliance officer.
After the initial email from Wells Fargo, the campaign confirmed that they had previously taken contributions from the cannabis industry – and that they had no intention of stopping. The next email the campaign received from Wells Fargo only made the decision to close the accounts final.
While it is fairly common practice for banks to refuse to work with cannabis businesses, Wells Fargo has taken this stance even further by denying a client for taking contributions from cannabusinesses as well. This could become a problem for other state – and even national – politicians, state agencies, and businesses that simply conduct business with the cannabis industry, regardless of whether they even touch the plant itself.
“This is yet another clear signal to Congress that they need to address the banking issue for the cannabis industry,” Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), said in a statement. “It is absurd enough that state-regulated businesses are being denied standard banking services, but it is absolutely ludicrous that political candidates and nonprofit advocacy organizations are also being affected. There is no rational reason for Congress to go another session without fixing this growing problem, which has serious societal implications.”
It is uncertain whether this move by Wells Fargo is entirely based on fear of federal government interference – or whether this is more of an anti-cannabis stance by the institution itself. For those Wells Fargo customers who happen to be working in the industry, it may be wise to find a more cannabis-friendly banking institution before it’s too late.