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Payment Processors Won't Touch Cannabis

Payment processors still won't support little sites that discuss marijuana like TMF does. We don't offer a trade forum, or do anything illegal,...
  1. Ted
    Starting from the oldest and going to the newest, this was my conversation with Stripe to use them as a payment processor in order to have an option for supporters to help me along the journey. As of this publishing I am still personally funding TMF after almost 3 years and it's perfectly fine but I know the cost will increase as we grow.

    My initial email to support April 7, 2016


    I read through your Prohibited Business page and found the Drug paraphernalia section. It restricts using Stripe to sell drug equipment. Luckily my forum does not sell pipes, bongs or anything else. I want to take donations to keep the site going, sell t-shirts, and other things that don't include equipment.

    Can I use Stripe for my forum? Please have a look at it if you need to see it to believe it at https://www.tedsmarijuanaforum.com. If the answer is yes then I would like to know where the line is so I don't cross it. If the answer is no then I can solely focus on Bitcoin and other methods.

    Thank you for your time,

    Their response on April 8, 2016

    Hey Ted,

    Thanks for writing in, and for your interest in Stripe.

    Unfortunately, after reviewing your site and the details that you've provided, I'm afraid that we won't be able to work together at the moment.

    To provide some context, while we really appreciate you clarifying exactly which services you would be providing as a Stripe user, I'm afraid that our banking partners (Wells Fargo for our United States-based users) do not currently allow us to support any businesses that are related to the marijuana industry — this includes businesses and organizations that are not directly selling marijuana, and are instead providing information and resources to individuals who may be using marijuana.

    With that said, I'd like to note that we are actively working to remove this restriction (as we believe that it is not fair to turn away businesses that are not selling marijuana directly, and are only providing information or resources), though I'm afraid that we don't have a timeline for when this will be resolved. In the meantime, I've made a note of your interest in working with Stripe, and we will be sure to follow up once we've made progress on this front.

    I'm truly sorry that we cannot do better for you right now, but I do hope that you'll still consider working with us in the future when we're able to support businesses such as yours.

    Warm regards,

    My reply back on April 8, 2016


    If that's a canned response then well done on making it authentic. I believe it's not and that your reply is probably better than most I would expect to receive. I appreciate the look and the answer. If that restriction ever comes off I would love to use stripe to offer upgraded account features, t-shirts, or other things we will offer to our members. Selling or servicing marijuana users with actual cannabis is not in the future though. I only want a community that exchanges information.

    Looks like Bitcoin is the option and one that I think will be a good one for us anyways. I think this is the future for many online businesses as the limitations banks choose to apply in many areas are more of a force to push crypto currencies forward. I know Stripe is accepting Bitcoin too which makes your company very progressive and one I hope to work with eventually. Anyways, thank you for the reply and now I can move forward eliminating this from our possibilities.

    Best wishes,

    Stripe's Reply back on April 8, 2016

    Hey Ted,

    Thanks for writing back.

    We'd love to work with you once this restriction is lifted (we're hoping it'll be soon!) and will be more than happy to help you transition over to Stripe once we're able to fully support all aspects of your business. In the meantime, have a great weekend!


    This ended the conversation for months until one night I wanted to come back after digging further. They do allow big companies that have monster revenue use the service even though they also have marijuana in their products. So I re-engaged in August.

    My email to XXXX on August 17, 2016...I know....I can never let it go.

    Hi XXXX or {name},

    I was reading the Stripe blog today and figured I would write back. After checking out some of the businesses that Stripe showcases on the site I thought it would be interesting to do a rundown. I know you said before that Stripe can't help me at the moment, but I got curious anyways.

    The marijuana/cannabis (whatever you want to call it) site has been amazing. I have so many people with unbelievable stories that makes me want to fix the laws for them. I run a forum that discusses marijuana in all aspects and there is no store or anything else. You can check it out and see. Everything is public with no hidden sections and I don't plan on having hidden sections going forward. I just wanted to compare what I see in Stripe's gallery with what I provide. All of the following companies use Stripe, though they publicly list, discuss, and host a platform for marijuana.
    • Yelp - Lists marijuana dispensaries and connects customers to them.
    • Twitter, Pinterest & Facebook: Well, we are on all...Ted's FB, Our Pinterest Twitter
    • Teespring - Marijuana teeshirts for sale, and Stripe proudly displays them.
    • Indigogo - Just the first result I searched and found.
    I could list so many businesses using Stripe and have actual products that are marijuana targeted.
    I know the first response is that this is not their primary business, but that is questionable. Fair enough. It's not my primary business either. It's a platform that my company runs and my primary company does design, marketing, content production, and then I have Ted's Marijuana Forum on the side. I have 4 websites and TMF is only 25% of what my company does.

    We have a wiki that we are building to include many pages that would be similar to those found on Wikipedia. Also listings for dispensaries to agricultural schools like Yelp. We have groups like Facebook, and much more. There is a lot of evidence here to support my request and make my case for acceptance.

    The only difference I see is that I am not a huge company. So it probably comes down to risk. I wouldn't be processing large sums of money and I am willing to meet whatever requirements needed to reduce the risk. The payments would be maybe $10/month for a premium membership. It would be small is my point and little risk, but I am happy to put my own money up if it helps reduce the risk.

    Information isn't illegal, even if the topic is marijuana. I have members from all around the world, and our information is similar to those sites that use Stripe. My server host in Chicago has no issues taking payment for TMF, all the software developers have no issue working with us, and I have found no other roadblocks except for Stripe or Paypal. (for the record, I hate PayPal and don't want to use them)

    So I wanted to go a bit further into detail and see if there is a different standard for smaller sites and how I can meet that standard if I haven't already. I don't allow the sale or trade of anything on the site. We don't sell anything at the moment either, but I would like to sell membership upgrades like a signature for their posts and other similar items that help the servers run. I use Xenforo as a platform which is a commercial community software and they have no issue with the niche. I am in good standings with everyone, except for Stripe. Can we figure out a way to work together?


    P.S. 4chan uses Stripe. I don't know if that can be verified or not, but TMF isn't even close to 4chan's debauchery. Source: Stripe Market Share and Web Usage Statistics

    Stripe sent the canned response I knew I would get on August 18, 2016

    Hi there Ted,

    Thanks for your reply. My name is XXXX and I'm working with XXXX on this.

    You definitely make a lot of compelling arguments. However, as XXXX previously mentioned, our financial partners do not currently allow us to support any businesses or fundraisers that are related to the marijuana industry. This includes businesses and organizations that are not directly selling marijuana, but are instead providing resources or promotional material directed towards it's usage. Sadly, they have offered no room to negotiate with their stance on this issue.

    I'm sure you understand that I'm unable to speak to the details regarding other accounts for the sake of security, but I can assure you that every business that signs up with Stripe is individually vetted once they begin business operations to ensure that they fall within our Terms of Service. Sadly, we we often see users integrate our service into their web pages without having checked to see if Stripe can support them. They are then informed we can't work with them due to their prohibited business model. This can occasionally cause misunderstandings about the services Stripe can and cannot support, but I assure you that each of the campaigns and sites you mentioned are reviewed to ensure their compliance with the policies we are held to.

    I can certainly understand any frustration that our inability to work together may cause, as it is a shared frustration. It is our goal at Stripe is to work with as many businesses as possible, especially those with unique and interesting concepts. Some of those concepts, and our desire to support them, will occasionally bring us into conflict with our financial partner's and their regulations regarding what business and organizations we can and cannot work with.

    We often try to push their boundaries, and have actually made a lot of progress in swaying them away from their often close minded viewpoint into a more modern outlook at a lot of industries. However, there are some things that they are very steadfast in their opposition to. Their stance in thise case often has a lot to do with federal compliance for processing and money transfer. While I understand that information on marijuana is not illegal in any way, it unfortunately comes down to an unwillingness to risk supporting anything that could put either themselves or Stripe in any situation that could potentially falling any sort of legal gray area.

    I also feel it is important to let you know that we've added your name to a list of businesses we intend to reach out to once we are able to make a foray into this exciting and lucrative industry. We currently don't have a time frame for when we'll have the flexibility to onboard business like yours which only provide information or resources for the cannabis industry, but please know it is something we are actively working towards. It is my hope that these restrictions we are faced with will be lessened (and hopefully removed all together) as our country as a whole moves towards a more accepting mindset of Cannabis.

    I'm truly sorry that we cannot do better for you right now, but I do hope that you'll still consider working with us in the future when we're able to support businesses such as yours. I wish you the very best in everything moving forward, and hope that you're able to find a payment processor better suited to your business. Please don't hesitate to reach out at any point in the future, I'm happy to address any questions that you may have.

    Best wishes,

    My final reply to this on August 18, 2016


    Thanks for the reply. I expected the email that you sent. I also understand the financial partners positions as well. I don't find the position frustrating. I find the fact that Stripe works with a lot of companies that are doing exactly what you said you can't do in regards to me. Reasonably, I get it. The companies I listed are much larger and more lucrative. Everything always comes down to money. I understand business very well and it's acceptable to just say that it comes down to risk/reward.

    I want to make clear that I didn't integrate Stripe into my website. I wouldn't spend the time to do so until I had an email approving the use of it. I apologize if I LED you to think that I did this.

    I appreciate the addition to the list as well. I do want to work with Stripe in the future when or if possible. I try not to burn bridges along my way and I am sure Ted and I can figure out another path forward. Thank you for your time.


    Their final response on August 19, 2016

    Hi Ted,

    Thanks for getting back to me.

    I really appreciate your clarification and understanding of this situation. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to reach out to you about supporting Ted's Marijuana Forum soon. In the meantime, if you have another business model you would like to see if we could support, please don't hesitate to let us know. We would love to work with you if possible.

    If you have any other questions for me, please write back. I'm always happy to help and just and email away.

    Best wishes,

    About Author

    I am Ted, I built this and I am going to continue building this marijuana forum with or without you. Hopefully with you, because you are awesome for even being here. These are my posts on what happens behind the scenes. Marijuana forums are hard.

Recent User Reviews

  1. Anonymous
    "Patience is a hard act to follow"
    Pros - Love that you're pushing back, questioning archaic rules and encouraging others to question the same old, same old.
    Cons - Stigma is unbelievably frustrating.
    How incredibly frustrating to be on the side of education, health and wellness and hit roadblocks left and right because of the stigma of Cannabis. Such a shame.
    One day soon there will be change, thanks in part to the efforts of people like you, who are leading the way to legalization by informing, educating, enlightening and encouraging others to do the same.
    Thank you for doing all you do and I look forward to continue to learn and be inspired by your writings and efforts.
    Ted likes this.


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  1. OTM Brands
    Stripe froze our accounts for 90 days for selling hemp products. PayPal is still easy to work with but I think you're right about bitcoin.
      Ted likes this.
    1. Ted
      Thanks for adding that little nugget. That's what I don't want to happen. Going along just fine for a while makes you assume you are out of the woods and then one day, BAM! All gone.
      OTM Brands likes this.