Wells Fargo Says It Isn't Anti-Weed, It's Pro-Following the Law

(Bloomberg) -- Wells Fargo & Co. isn’t making a political statement, it’s following the rules.

So goes the bank’s response to backlash over terminating a pro-medical marijuana politician’s banking relationship because of her advocacy and contributions from industry lobbyists.

“As a national bank that is federally regulated, Wells Fargo must comply with federal law on the topic of marijuana, even in instances where state laws may differ,” the San Francisco-based lender said Wednesday in a statement. “Since federal law prohibits the sale and use of marijuana, national banks like Wells Fargo may not knowingly bank or provide services to marijuana businesses or for related activities.”

Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for Florida state agricultural commissioner who has run a pro-medical marijuana campaign, said the bank notified her on Aug. 3 that it was closing her account over her ties to the industry. Fried said her campaign is moving its accounts to BB&T Corp., which has not yet raised concerns about the marijuana issue.

Fried also used the development to point out that medical marijuana is legal in more states than it’s not, and to blast businesses and officials who she said were discriminating against a legal industry. Medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law, a challenge to the industry.

“While we recognize that resolving the differences between federal and state laws on this matter has become an industry problem, we make these decisions based on the requirements of federal law and not because of any political view on the topic,” Wells Fargo said.

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