Tech’s Fight Against the Cannabis Boom

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As states legalize cannabis, large tech companies– including Google AdWords and PayPal– are making operating business complicated for cannabis-related businesses.

As state after state legalizes recreational cannabis and an overwhelming majority of Americans on both sides of the political spectrum demonstrate  they are in favor of all-out legalization, there have been some unexpected snags. Support for legalization isn’t just happening in America, but worldwide. Ironically, large tech companies typically known for being progressive are targeting cannabis-related businesses

To the Cloud Vapor Store sells herbal vaporizers, which are different from the vaporizers most people think of—otherwise known as e-cigs— in that they heat up plants and herbs to a certain temperature where the active ingredients are extracted from them, without combustion. These vaporizers can be used for an assortment of herbs, most often cannabis.

For a long time, these items were able to fly under the radar, and sites like To the Cloud Vapor Store could advertise, without issue on services like Google AdWords and Bing Shopping. That has since changed, and anyone wanting to sell cannabis vaporizers are no longer able to advertise through Google AdWords.  If they do successfully manage to post, the ads are not public for long before being removed and advertising accounts suspended.

“In the past, it was like a game of cat and mouse. To The Cloud Vapor Store spent so much on Google AdWords they actually gave us an account rep. The account reps would joke that they knew the products’ intended use , but would give us ways to get around it, like calling it an aromatherapy diffuser or omitting the word vaporizer.”  A representative from To The Cloud Vapor Store says, “Having an account representative to help us remain compliant felt reassuring, like we would be able to keep the business growing with Google AdWords.”One day, the account was suspended without warning. The once easy-to-count-on account representative was no longer able to respond, and appeals fell on deaf ears or instructing us to the terms of service agreement.

PayPal asked us for specifications to ensure that the items we were selling were not e-cigarettes and that we were not selling any products like vape juice. The second time To The Cloud Vapor Store encountered a problem with PayPal, they were told that PayPal cannot be used on vaporizer websites.  Paypal advised the company that allowing vaporizers carries a certain level of risk for the company, as there is a greater frequency of fraud, chargebacks, and bad actors. A representative from the To The Cloud Vapor Store says, “It is frustrating as Paypal offers not only an easy way for customers to check out , but provides a level of trust and assurance to both buyer and seller. It offers an air of legitimacy that puts buyers at ease.”

As vaporizers are being targeted in the general crackdown by tech companies, companies like To The Cloud Vapor Store are having to lay off workers and rethink expansion plans until there is a more concrete set of rules which to follow.

A company representative says, “There is no certainty as alcohol, tobacco, and the adult entertainment industries are legal, but heavily regulated. It seems ancillary cannabis goods are going to be placed in this realm as well.  What is feared by smaller outfits and retailers is that this will make barriers to entry harder and politicians and lobbyists will make sure only certain players will be able to operate in this space. Players they themselves select through connections.

Vaporizers are now being targeted in the general crackdown by tech companies.  Vape Critic, a noted online influencer of cannabis vaporizers  explains, “Very early on, it became apparent to me that this industry wasn’t equally embraced by all.  But it went even deeper than that; I noticed also that many were willing to look the other way, even though content of this nature was essentially against their terms.  This is when you need to realize that you’re building your business on the side of a volcano, which could erupt at any time and vaporize you overnight– pun intended.”

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