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Marijuana banking still an issue

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – After it was reported earlier this week that SunTrust Bank was closing the account of the Tallahassee-based Medical Marijuana Business Association, the banking giant has reached out to association's founder, who said he and the bank are talking.

“As an association, you know, we receive funds from a number of different entities. Physicians groups, nonprofits. We’re not selling marijuana. I think their real concern is with licensees who are actually dealing with the product, plants. So we’ve had some preliminary conversations and I appreciate them reaching out,” said association founder Jeff Sharkey. 

Banks are reluctant to handle any accounts associated with marijuana because it is still illegal under federal law. While the two are talking, the association hasn’t stopped looking for another bank, yet.

Marijuana remains a Schedule I drug under federal law. 

Earlier this week, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who saw her campaign account closed last year because of donations from marijuana lobbyists, called SunTrust's action a move in the wrong direction. 

“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. A lack of financial services forces all cash operations, which is inefficient and a public safety risk. Businesses can’t operate with irregularities restricting their growth, stability, and ability to pay bills,” said Fried. “Cannabis provides an important medicine and an incredible economic potential for Florida. We should be enacting forward-thinking policies to position our state to become a national leader in the industry.”