Wells Fargo has been known for making headlines about the bad things the bank has been involved with and it was no different than this week when a headline said the bank dropped a Democrat’s account for her support for marijuana.
Nikkie Fried, a Democrat running for agriculture commissioner in Florida is a supporter of medical marijuana. Before she entered Florida’s race, she was running Igniting Florida, a lobbying firm. She had said of herself that she is “one of most visible faces and key activists in Florida’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry.”
Fried took to social media and had urged supports to pull their money from Wells Fargo after learning that her bank account was closed.
Wells Fargo said that it has a policy against serving marijuana-related businesses and noticed that Ms. Fried was “advocating for expanded patient access to medical marijuana.”
It was in July that the bank asked the campaign if it would be receiving money from “lobbyists from the medical marijuana industry in any capacity,” to which the campaign said yes.
Ms. Fried would be receiving donations from lobbyists as well as “executives, employees and corporations in the medical marijuana industry.”
That’s when Wells Fargo said it was closing the account.
“This is absolutely unprecedented,” Fried had said in an interview. “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.”
It’s no surprise for banks to be careful with marijuana considering that it is still illegal on a federal level.
According to Christian Bax however, Florida’s previous medical marijuana director, “If a bank is going to start drawing a line based on a candidate’s particular advocacy, where does a bank draw that line? Is it going to extend to every candidate in Florida who advocates for medical marijuana?”
A Wells Fargo spokeswoman, Bridget Braxton, stated, “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.”
“We continually review our banking relationships to ensure we adhere to strict regulatory and risk guidelines.”
Erik Gordon, assistant professor at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, remarked, “They’re seeing the word ‘marijuana’ — they’re seeing a word that could indicate danger — and are assuming that the danger exists without thinking carefully about what’s going on.”
Bryan Hubbard, a spokesman for Wells Fargo’s regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, said, “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.”