This story, first published June 15, has a new ending. —Fred Gardner
The Society of Cannabis Clinicians was founded in 2000 by Tod Mikuriya, MD, and a handful of California colleagues, including the current president, Jeffrey Hergenrather, MD. The SCC now has some 300 members nationwide. They neither produce nor sell cannabis-based products. They share findings and observations and hold quarterly meetings. Dues are collected online —or were, until a payment-processing company called WePay stopped handling the SCC account on November 18, 2016.
PayPal had previously denied the SCC its services and wouldn’t say why, as recounted here by Stacey Kerr, MD.
WePay didn’t even provide the courtesy of a notice that service was being cut off. “One day members started notifying us that they weren’t able to renew their membership by WePay,” SCC administrator Christine Milentis recalls. “That’s how we learned that our account had been closed. I couldn’t even log in. And of course there was no phone number to call.”
After a week of trying, Milentis reached a WePay representative who repeated, “We can mo longer service your account,” without providing a reason. But you can file a written appeal, Milentis was told. So she submitted paperwork from the IRS documenting the SCC’s non-profit status and confirming that members do not produce or sell cannabis.
The appeal was denied after another two weeks. No reason was stated.
Milentis then applied to a series of companies, calling the service representatives directly to describe the SCC and its modest payment processing needs. Sometimes her hopes were raised. A manager at First Data (Clover) told her, “You shouldn’t have any problem creating and operating a merchant account through us.” She completed the application (banking and routing info, etc.) and sent in payment for the necessary software and the first year of service. Then nothing happened.
“It was taking a week, then two weeks. I called to ask ‘Why is this taking so long? What else do you need?’
“I was told, ‘ We’re just waiting for the final step of approval.’
“Then they refunded our money.”
BluePay was another company that gave Milentis a drawn-out runaround before a Senior Account Executive informed her, “we are unable to take your account.” She emailed him: “Thanks for letting me know. This is very disappointing as we are only developing educational materials for doctors on the subject. Can you recommend any other specific payment processing merchants or high-risk merchants who may be able to assist us?”
The Senior Account Exec replied: “My apologies for the delayed response. I was out for a few days due to the holidays. Unfortunately my underwriting team did inform me that we are unable to take the account on. I do apologize for any inconvenience. I would suggest googling high risk merchant service provider.”
Intuit (Shopify) was in the process of giving the SCC an account when, says Milentis, “they closed it in the final review process before it was even implemented on our site.”
An outfilled called Square lived up to its name by granting the SCC an account and then closing it the first time a member tried to pay dues via the Square Cash app on the SCC website.
Milentis also applied in vain to 2CheckOut, Propay, and Authorize.net. (With an immediate refusal at least you don’t get strung along.) She estimates that she, Hergenrather, and SCC treasurer Michelle Sexton devoted some 50 hours to trying to find a new payment merchant.
This story has a happy ending (we hope). In late May a company called Greenpay, willing to brave an indirect association with the Devil Weed, set up an SCC account!
“Christine received an email from Greenpay which stated as of July 26, they would no longer be able to provide payment processing for our site. As far as I know, we did not receive any prior warning or notifications from them before their company was purchased by another company who wanted proprietary use of their technology. In the email, they stated that due to a non-disclosure agreement, they were not able to inform any of their customers of their impending sale until July 26th. For a few days before that we were not getting any service from them and their payment system was no longer working.”