Big Banks, Big Marijuana Searching for New Ways to Skirt Federal Law, Protect Drug Dealers

(WASHINGTON, DC) – Wells Fargo, the nation’s fourth largest bank, is looking to supersize its operation by becoming the official bank for drug money in Maryland. Big Banks partnering with Big Marijuana isn’t new, despite the claims of pro-addiction activists.

In the wake of news reports that Maryland is negotiating with Wells Fargo to manage the state’s revenue received from taxes imposed on THC drugs, Dr. Kevin Sabet, president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) wrote to leaders in the Maryland State Senate, the State Comptroller’s office and the CEO of Wells Fargo urging them to cease their efforts to circumvent federal laws and regulations.

“Federal law is clear – sales of marijuana and THC drugs are illegal,” said Kevin Sabet, a former Obama White House drug policy advisor. “The fact that state officials are actively trying to circumvent federal laws and banking regulations is deeply concerning. It’s especially inappropriate because the quotes from members of the State Comptroller Lierman’s staff make it clear this is an active effort to protect the banks who are breaking federal law.” 

A copy of the letter sent by SAM to officials in Maryland and the CEO of Wells Fargo can be found here.

“Should this partnership move forward, Wells Fargo would publicly be providing financial services related to the sale of a Schedule 1 drug. Their actions set a dangerous precedent, and the U.S. Attorney for Maryland should take immediate action against the bank, state officials and the drug dealers involved.”

As SAM noted in its letter, existing guidance “outlined by the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities, the federal government provides extensive guidance for banking institutions to stay in compliance with the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). The workaround by the Maryland government reported on in the media is a clear attempt to protect banks from thoughtfully crafted federal regulations.”

“By permitting banking access for marijuana revenues linked to an increasing drug use and addiction crisis, Maryland is opening the door for banks to benefit from the sale of other illicit substances. The state is on a slippery slope that should be deeply concerning to Marylanders,” Sabet said.