It is common knowledge among our marijuana business attorneys and our clients that banks are highly restricted in how they can interact with the cannabis industry. Wells Fargo, however, recently took those restrictions too far when the bank closed the account of a candidate in Florida who made cannabis legalization a tenant of her campaign platform. According to New York Times, Nikki Fried is running for Florida agricultural commissioner and said expansion of the state’s current program is her highest priority.
The candidate runs her campaign finances through Wells Fargo, who questioned her support of marijuana and whether or not she also was planning to take donations from marijuana businesses to fund her campaign. When her campaign workers confirmed she would take such donations, Wells Fargo made an unprecedented move in shutting down her account. Our skilled Los Angeles marijuana business attorneys know it is true under Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. Section 812 that the consumption and sales of marijuana in any form or for any purpose is still prohibited in the eyes of the federal government. Therefore, running a marijuana business would still, on paper, be considered illicit drug trafficking. Congress has intervened with the Rohrebacher-Blumenauer Amendment, which has freed cannabis businesses to function under the supervision of individual state laws without the interference of the U.S. Department of Justice, Banks, meanwhile, still largely have their hands tied, unable to allow those businesses to knowingly house money being used to commit a federal crime due to their own federal regulations with which they must comply. While it is unclear how much the Justice Department would target banks for such activity, most have opted to play it safe.
To say the least, this has been a massive inconvenience for the cannabis industry, whose businesses are often targeted for theft because criminals know the large amounts of cash owners are often forced to keep on the premises. It is a primary reason advocates are still fighting so fervently to have marijuana rescheduled federally to end some of this unnecessary chaos. The logic in these cases is sound at least. The law is clear, and all parties involved are doing their best to comply.
In the case of Fried, though, the logic is very shaky and it sends a rather muddled message to the country. It is not illegal to lobby to change a law, which is exactly what Fried is doing through her campaign platform. In fact, since medical marijuana has already been legalized in Florida, her platform to expand the program isn’t even that new or incendiary. Wells Fargo seems to be putting Fried under a level of scrutiny that other politicians and lobbyists have not had to endure.
As for Fried accepting money from marijuana businesses, where will banks draw the line? Are landlords who rent to cannabis businesses not allowed to put money in their own bank account? What about someone who works at a dispensary? Can they not have a personal bank account? What about all the companies that sell to those in the marijuana industry all of the items needed to run a business, such as shelves, cash registers, bags, grow lights, and testing equipment? The list goes on and shows just how preposterous this decision really was. Should you find yourself the target of an unfair attack due to your participation in California’s cannabis industry, our attorneys will get to the bottom of the issue and fight for your rights.
Candidate: Wells Fargo Closed Account Over Medical Marijuana Stance, Aug. 20, 2018, By Antonio Fins, Palm Beach Post
More Blog Entries:
Federal Banking Regulations Make Dispensaries Robbery Targets, Nov. 18, 2017, Cannabis Law Group