Wells Fargo ‘Fires’ Candidate For Her Stance on Marijuana

nikki fried

Wells Fargo, the bank that recently agreed to pay more than $2 billion in fines rather than fight fraud charges from the federal government, has canceled the account of a candidate running for Florida office because of her stance on medical marijuana.

Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for state agriculture commissioner, called the bank’s decision “totally unprecedented,” and another example of “the failures of our laws, institutions (and) politicians to respect patients and doctors (and) the will of the voters.”

Wells Fargo cited Fried’s campaign platform in which, the bank said, she has been “advocating for expanded patient access to medical marijuana.” The bank further noted that Fried’s campaign has received contributions from lobbyists “from the medical marijuana industry.”

“When Wells Fargo first sent us an email a few weeks ago making this outrageous decision, they told me my account was being flagged because of my ‘political platform,'” Fried said at a press conference. “I thought this was a joke.”

Voters in Florida  overwhelmingly approved the legalization of medical marijuana by more than 70 percent in a 2016 initiative.

While the bank cited its policy to “not knowingly bank or provide services to marijuana businesses or for activities related to those businesses,” Fried retorted:

“I’m a candidate. …. I’m not touching a plant, I’m not selling a plant, I’m not producing a plant — I’m simply advocating for the expansion of medical marijuana and that was the reason for closing me down. I was specifically targeted.”

The Tampa Bay Times notes that “a major bank closing the account of someone seeking public office is virtually unheard of, and this may be the first time it’s happened in Florida.”

Fried has made advocacy for medical marijuana a cornerstone of her campaign. She once lobbied for medical-marijuana interests and she helped shape the state’s laws and regulations regarding cannabis use, sales and distribution, the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported.

Fried, a Fort Lauderdale attorney, told a press conference in Tallahassee:

“This is much bigger than my campaign. I am happy to tell Wells Fargo ‘good riddance,’ and finding a bank to take my campaign contributions without making a value judgment on my platform was not difficult to find. However, when this happens to a medical marijuana business, as it does every day all over the country, it has a much more devastating impact.”

“I’ve never seen a candidate targeted specifically because of their support for the marijuana industry. It is an egregious issue of free speech, and it’s one that shouldn’t be tolerated,” Michael Bronstein, the founder of the American Trade Association of Cannabis and Hemp, told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview Monday.

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