Nikki Fried burns SunTrust over dropping medical marijuana lobbying group

Agriculture Commissioner sees bad precedent in bank's decision.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried slammed a decision by SunTrust Bank to shut down accounts for a medical marijuana group.

“As we move forward on cannabis with an expansion of access to medical marijuana and a state hemp program, SunTrust’s policy shift is a move in the wrong direction,” Fried said in a statement to Florida Politics.

Fried likely feels special empathy: While she ran for office last year, Wells Fargo closed her candidate accounts because she took money from industry professionals.

SunTrust last week informed the Medical Marijuana Business Association it will close its bank accounts as of April 16.

Fried said that decision was not only unfair to the business group but economically dangerous: “A lack of financial services forces all cash operations, which is inefficient and a public safety risk.”

She added: “Businesses can’t operate with irregularities restricting their growth, stability and ability to pay bills.”

Already, medical cannabis dispensaries must operate in cash in Florida. Money then gets transported, often in unmarked vans, to one of the rare financial institutions banking with marijuana companies.

That’s because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, despite states like Florida legalizing it for medicinal use.

Many companies worked for a period with First Green Bank in Orlando. That stopped last year after a merger with a larger bank, as reported by the Palm Beach Post.

Banks increasingly have taken action against third parties conducting professional business with medical marijuana providers.

Fried, a former industry lobbyist, quickly slammed the SunTrust decision last week and said the bank “doesn’t trust Florida voters.” Medical cannabis became decriminalized after a constitutional amendment passed in 2016.

But she went further on Monday and said the move also hurt patients.

“Cannabis provides an important medicine and an incredible economic potential for Florida,” she said. “We should be enacting forward-thinking policies to position our state to become a national leader in the industry.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


  • cheryl cook

    March 26, 2019 at 2:47 am

    Have Nikki Fried or Ron DeSantis determined the level of toxicity to young people’s lungs that results from smoking marijuana,medical or otherwise? There is no language to allow for smoking marijuana in the Amendment approved by voters. He made it up out of thin air. Because marijuana is still illegal federally, what are the scientific and medical studies for the Fried/DeSantis push to legalize smoking marijuana, or are there even any legitimate American studies that have been executed yet? And why was DeSantis dictating and directing to legislators in Tallahassee to come up with legislation to push his own smoking agenda? I thought each legislator was elected on their own merit, to serve the people, not to serve one individual. If he wanted so badly for young people to smoke marijuana, why didn’t he man-up and decree it himself instead of hiding behind legislators?

  • Socrates

    March 26, 2019 at 10:19 am

    Banks are regulated by, and have to answer to the federal government regarding who they do business with. I don’t blame banks for not wanting to continue a relationship with people who endorse or sell an illegal product (federally speaking). This will not be corrected until Congress gets on the right side of this issue, and passes laws according to the will of the majority of the people. Don’t blame the banks. This falls squarely on the shoulders of the federal government.

Comments are closed.


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