In a recent turn of events, open source platforms are facing criticism for what many see as an attempt to curtail the burgeoning cannabis industry. A case in point is an email sent by Woo.com Support to a dispensary business owner, which has sparked a heated debate about the role of these services in regulating content and commerce.

The Open Source Platforms Email on Cannabis

According to the email, the business in question, which sells weed products using WooCommerce, is being pressured to discontinue the sale of these products or face disconnection from all services provided by Automattic Inc., the parent company of Woo.com. The email states, “The production and sales of these products in the US – where our parent company (Automattic Inc.) is registered – are highly regulated. As a consequence, there are some restrictions for any WooCommerce site that sells them.”

This directive has raised concerns among advocates of the cannabis industry, who argue that platforms like WooCommerce should not impose such restrictions, especially when the legal landscape around cannabis is evolving rapidly. The email further warns that a disconnection would mean the business could not use direct services offered by Automattic to support its store, including WordPress.com, the Jetpack plugin, and Woo-developed extensions/products sold on Woo.com.

The implications of this policy extend beyond just the loss of services. It also means that businesses like the one in question cannot use features dependent on a Jetpack connection, such as the Woo Mobile App, WooCommerce Shipping & Tax, and WooPayments. Additionally, hosting the site on WordPress.com and having a subscription to Woo-developed extensions and products would no longer be possible.

This move by Automattic Inc. has sparked a conversation about the balance between adhering to regulations and supporting the growth of the cannabis industry. Critics argue that such policies could stifle innovation and limit the potential of businesses in the cannabis sector. The email also advises the business owner to seek legal advice regarding the sale of their products and to ensure they have a backup of their site and any files hosted with WordPress.com, highlighting the precarious position businesses find themselves in.

Several other online store platforms also have policies that restrict or prohibit the sale of cannabis products, largely due to legal and regulatory considerations. Some of these platforms include:

  1. Shopify: Shopify allows the sale of CBD products, but with certain restrictions. Sellers must comply with federal, state, and local laws, and Shopify Payments cannot be used for CBD transactions.
  2. BigCommerce: BigCommerce permits the sale of hemp and CBD products, but merchants must use third-party payment processors as BigCommerce Payments does not support these products.
  3. Wix: Wix has restrictions on the sale of CBD and cannabis products. Merchants need to comply with legal requirements and may need to use third-party payment solutions.
  4. Squarespace: Squarespace allows the sale of CBD products, but not cannabis. Merchants must comply with all legal regulations and use a third-party payment gateway.
  5. Magento: Magento, an open-source platform, does not have a specific policy against cannabis or CBD, but merchants must comply with legal regulations and may face limitations with payment processors.
  6. Etsy: Etsy prohibits the sale of cannabis and certain cannabis-related products, including CBD, on its platform.

We must also consider the challenges imposed not only by platforms that are designed to enable commerce but those that promote it like marketing giants at Google and Facebook who have placed a stranglehold on the ability to promote cannabis to interested shoppers.

As the debate continues, the cannabis industry is left grappling with the challenges posed by e-commerce platforms and their policies. The situation underscores the need for a more nuanced approach that supports both compliance with regulations and the growth of an industry that is increasingly gaining legal and social acceptance. In the meantime it seems your money would be best spent on platforms that don’t seek to cut off your ability to do business in one of the many states that allow it. Make sure to research throughly before building your next cannabis website so you don’t end up on a platform that will leave you high and dry.