Chase Closes Accounts of Pot Entrepreneur Martin Tobias


After more than 20 years of banking with JPMorgan Chase, former Microsoft executive and marijuana entrepreneur Martin Tobias saw his business and personal accounts terminated this week.

Chase spokeswoman Patricia Wexler confirmed that both of Tobias’s accounts have been shut down, but as policy she would not give more details about his case.

“We are closely following federal guidance on this matter,” she said, explaining that the bank doesn’t work with marijuana businesses. “If we find out that someone is in the business after they have already been banking with us, then we take steps to close that account.”

CNBC profiled Tobias this week in a series called “Potrepreneurs: Cashing in on Weed.” Tobias got into the cannabis industry when he discovered that a warehouse he owned in Seattle was zoned as legal for marijuana businesses. He received offers on the building from would-be buyers who wanted to grow marijuana there. He decided to sell, but then began to explore marijuana real estate, finally creating South Fork Business Park, an industrial area in Raymond, Washington, catering to pot businesses.

In some cities, including Seattle and San Jose, California, marijuana businesses are legal in areas that are zoned for them.

Tobias said his project is the largest cannabis real estate development in the United States, at over 750,000 square feet. Tobias also founded the Washington Cannabusiness Association.

Tobias’s banking difficulties point to one of the risks of getting into the marijuana industry. Though many states have legalized marijuana to one degree or another, those laws can conflict with federal rules, including those that oversee banks.

“I’m trying to support this newly legal business, I’ve invested millions of my own money, I have employed people, and the state wants me to be in this business,” Tobias said. “The discrepancy and negative consequences between state and federal policy, though, is what turns people off.”

Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by Brett Levin

About the author: Dina Gusovsky

Dina Gusovsky is a CNBC Producer and a Reporter for CNBC.com. She also produces and reports documentary series and features for CNBC’s Investigations, Inc. Prior to CNBC, Dina was a Reporter, Producer, and Writer at Bloomberg and an Anchor/Correspondent at RT America and News 12.

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