WePay Wipes Out Marijuana Wildfire Relief Fund

Donations totaling $13,000 are in limbo as an online payments processors shut down cannabis farms’ online fundraising efforts.

(Jessica Christian)

(Update: Oct. 17, 1:59 p.m.: A YouCaring spokesperson tells SF Weekly, “YouCaring did not shut down this fundraiser, WePay suspended the account. The fact that you can still see the fundraiser on our website tells you that we didn’t shut it down. When our trust and safety team takes down a campaign, it disappears from our website completely.”)

A silver lining to October’s devastating North Bay fires is the outpouring of donations and support for victims. While many have lost everything, one of the hardest-hit categories of survivors are the perfectly legal cannabis cultivators of Mendocino, Napa, and Sonoma counties. They lost their crops, were not allowed to buy crop insurance, and lost tens of thousands of dollars in cash, because they’re prohibited from having bank accounts. To help out their colleagues, industry trade group the California Growers Association had raised nearly $25,000 for those beleaguered farmers with a YouCaring online relief fund.

But YouCaring pulled the plug on that relief fund Monday night. “With $24,433 raised, the payment processor for our wildfire recovery fund emailed us to tell us that we had violated their terms of use and they would stop processing donations for us,” the California Growers Association said in a Facebook post Monday night.

The CalGrowers Wildfire Recovery Fund page on YouCaring was producing a 404 error message as of 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, but that page is now back up — albeit without a donation button for new contributions. The total money raised in the fund is displaying as just over $13,000 as of press time, so presumably, $10,000 worth of those donations have been returned.

“They have only reversed some charges,” California Growers Association executive director Hezekiah Allen said on Facebook. “It sounds like they will close out our balance on the remaining contributions tomorrow. No new donations can be processed.”

The growers have set up a new marijuana farmers wildfire recovery fund linked to the California Growers Association website. But why did YouCaring shut down a relief fund for California wildfire victims?

They didn’t, but their payment processor WePay did. According to an update from the California Growers Association, WePay responded by saying that, “Current U.S. federal law prohibits the purchase and sale of cannabis and cannabis extracts. 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.”

The growers association added that, “We aren’t sure how wildfire recovery donations violated these terms.”

SF Weekly has reached out to YouCaring, WePay, and the California Growers Association, and we’ll update this article with any response. NOTE: A YouCaring spokesperson added, “While YouCaring supports all forms of treatment and most fundraiser types, our payment providers (WePay & PayPal) do not allow fundraisers for anything marijuana-related, including for medical reasons. Current U.S. Federal Law prohibits the purchase and sale of marijuana. Subsequently, our payment provider is unable to process payments connected to the production or sale of cannabis (including CBD oil), even in situations where such payments would be permitted under State Law.”

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