Cannabis Businesses

Crowdfunding Site Cancels Aid to California Wildfire Victims—Because Cannabis


With the most devastating wildfire in California history laying waste to its members’ homes and livelihoods, the California Growers Association responded in the way most crises are handled in 2017: crowdfunding. Crowdfunding site cancels Aid to the California Wildfire Victims because funds would be sent directly to “cannabis growers who lost farms in wildfires.”

Reposted from original post written by Chris Roberts

As of Tuesday morning, 41 people have perished in the fires, which have burned more than 101,000 acres and destroyed 6,700 homes and businesses at an estimated cost of more than $3 billion. Multiple fires are still burning in Mendocino, Napa, and Sonoma counties—the very heart of California’s wine and cannabis region—and 88 people are still missing in Sonoma County alone, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reported.

The California Growers Association, the main lobby representing cannabis growers in Sacramento, estimates that as many as 300 marijuana farms have been affected in some way by the deadly fires still burning near Santa Rosa, about 60 miles north of San Francisco. Some have seen entire crops tainted with toxic smoke and ash, while others have lost both their harvests and their homes to the flames.

The fires came at the worst imaginable time: at the height of the fall harvest, in a year when many growers had exhausted their savings or taken on investment to obtain costly county permits ahead of statewide legalization. And unlike other farmers in the region, cannabis growers generally don’t qualify for crop insurance.

Within days, Hezekiah Allen, CGA’s founder and executive director, had set up a campaign on the San Francisco-based crowdfunding website YouCaring to collect donations to help the farmers recover. By Monday, about 50 people had pitched in more than $10,000 to the “CalGrowers Wildlife Relief Fund,” 100 percent of which—after processing fees, at least—would be sent directly to “cannabis growers who lost farms in wildfires.”

But just as the campaign eclipsed the five-figure mark, Allen began receiving messages from would-be donors. They’d had their donations canceled and their monies returned. A message from YouCaring “via WePay,” the company that processes the crowdfunding platform’s payments, popped up in Allen’s inbox. “We apologize,” it read, but the campaign had violated WePay’s terms of service. Pending payments were canceled and all donations returned.

The reason? Marijuana.

“Current U.S. federal law prohibits the purchase and sale of cannabis and cannabis extracts,” said the email sent to Allen, which he shared with Leafly News. “Subsequently, WePay is unable to process payments connected to the production, sale, or consumption of cannabis, even in situations where such activities would be permitted under state law.”

Allen’s efforts to patiently explain that the fundraiser had nothing to do with buying or selling drugs went unheeded. “My reply was, ‘Hey, we are not doing any of these things,’” he said Monday, adding that he’d been unable to reach anyone at the company via phone to talk directly.

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