By Gary Fineout, Associate Press
(AP) — A Florida candidate running to become the state’s next agriculture commissioner says banking giant Wells Fargo shut down her campaign account because she supports medical marijuana.
Democrat Nikki Fried said Monday that the banking giant started asking questions about her platform a month after she joined the statewide race: Does she advocate more access to medical marijuana? Would she accept contributions from medical marijuana lobbyists?
“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,” said Bridget Braxton with Wells Fargo Corporate Communications. “We continually review our banking relationships to ensure we adhere to strict regulatory and risk guidelines.”
Fried responded in July that she herself had lobbied for medical marijuana companies, and received contributions from lobbyists. Then, just weeks before the Aug. 28 primary, Wells Fargo said in a letter that it was shutting down her account, based on a review of its banking risks.
The move upset Fried, who has been forced to transfer her money to another bank. She said she was “not touching” or “producing the plants” and was simply “advocating” on behalf of those who want more access to medical marijuana.
“Wells Fargo’s actions against my campaign are emblematic about what is wrong with government and politics today,” said Fried.
Florida voters legalized medical marijuana in 2016, but some banks are reluctant to do business with an industry that remains illegal under federal law. Florida’s agriculture commissioner does not have a direct role in the regulation of medical marijuana, but Fried has vowed to press for increased patient access.
Wells Fargo said it could not comment on an individual customer’s account, but said the bank does not “knowingly” provide services to marijuana businesses.
Florida’s agriculture commissioner is one of three elected officials who serve on the Florida Cabinet. Commissioner Adam Putnam is leaving due to term limits. Fried is one of three Democrats and four Republicans who are running for the post.