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Attorney: Bank Wants To Close Accounts Over Marijuana-Related Defense Work

CASTRO VALLEY (KPIX 5) -- A Bay Area criminal defense attorney on Wednesday claimed he is being blackballed by his bank because of his work with clients facing marijuana-related charges.

Longtime criminal defense attorney Donald Drewry told KPIX 5 he's being targeted because of the defendants he represents.

Drewry said that the Castro Valley branch of Bank of the West where he has his accounts has told him to find a new home for his money by next week.

"My credit is at stake; paying bills on time, paying bills, having insurance cut off. All kinds of problems. Let alone I can't take on new clients," explained Drewry.

He was told that the bank would also cancel his credit lines. All because he represents clients who have had marijuana-related offenses.

"I'm being shut down just for telling people the law," said Drewry.

Drewry told KPIX 5 he's doesn't use marijuana or buy marijuana, but his website notes he defends clients with marijuana charges.

"It's one out of ten areas I practice in," said Drewry.

He said Castro Valley's Bank of the West branch manager called him Monday.

"And she says, 'Well, the higher ups looked over your website. It says you'll represent people that utilize marijuana,'" recalled Drewry. "I'm not doing anything illegal. It's my job to represent people who are charged. And just because you're charged doesn't mean you're guilty."

The Marijuana Industry Group says bank account closures are rare, but because marijuana is still illegal federally, banks have to abide by federal rules and regulations.

"This is outrageous," said Fred Remer, a criminal defense attorney who has known Drewry for decades.

"I've never ever heard of anything like this with regard to interfering between a client and his lawyer and putting lawyer out of business, economically," said Remer.

KPIX 5 Drewry if he was sure there wasn't more to the story and he insisted there wasn't and that the bank representative told him the banks action was triggered by what his website said.

"If somebody commits a federal crime such as sending pipe bombs to former presidents, it would be my duty [to defend them]," said Drewry.

KPIX 5 reached out to Bank of the West. The bank released a statement late Wednesday that said while their customers were their number one priority, they could not offer any comment on Drewry's situation.

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