Stripe Says No to Funding Cannabis Journalism, Backs Down After a Fight

In the wake of mass media layoffs and dwindling marketing budgets, many cannabis journalists have turned to independent platforms, like Substack, to build their own audience for reporting on the plant. 

Last week, career cannabis journalist and Managing Editor of San Diego Magazine Jackie Bryant joined the troves of ancillary writers being targeted by Stripe, Substack’s payment platform, for violating their terms of sale — despite merely reporting on the plant — while they continue to host many clients selling cannabis and “paraphernalia” directly.

On Tuesday, March 19, Bryant got an email with the subject line: “[Important] Closure of your Stripe account for Jacqueline Bryant.” 

Her newsletter, Cannabitch, is a continuation of the print column of the same name that ran in San Diego CityBeat until the publication folded in March 2020. As a way to save her audience and her stories, she launched the vertical on Substack for free and has remained un-paywalled ever since, accepting voluntary support for her work. 

Today, Cannabitch holds the “best blog” title from the 2021 and 2022 San Diego Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, an honorable mention for “Best Solo Newsletter” from the 2022 New York University American Journalism Online Awards, and her essay “California’s Weed Country is Lit” was included in Padma Lakshmi’s 2021 Best American Travel Writing anthology, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

It is also, apparently, in violation of Substack’s sole payment platform, Stripe, and its “terms of sales” for merely reporting on the oft-litigated plant, and is no longer eligible to receive payment. 

Naturally, Bryant “raised hell” (her words) on X, citing that Stripe has, notably, publicly platformed and supported Nazis through their partnership with Substack, but is choosing to draw the line here. 

Of course, she got a DM from Stripe Support letting her know they would re-review her case. By the afternoon, they had confirmed their decision. 

“Hi Jackie—we’ve taken this opportunity to conduct another review of the issue.” The DM began. “Unfortunately, we have nothing further to add to what was said in the email we sent earlier today. We appreciate that this is far from the answer you were hoping for. We’re sorry that we can’t be of any further help to you, but wish you the best moving forward.” 


Stripe is one of the main payment processing platforms in the country. Notably, it hosts countless sites that both directly sell cannabis accessories and represent cannabis companies themselves through Shopify. Substack also openly hosts many other cannabis-focused publications just like Bryant’s.  

Stripe’s decision to close her account will cost Bryant at least $5,000/year in income. 

“Legalization, as it stands, is a governmental and corporate cartel,” Bryant says, deep into a conversation lamenting how truly killer these seemingly arbitrary determinations are to those making their living in the business. “If it doesn’t guarantee freedom of speech and freedom of commerce, it’s not legal.” 

Bryant also noted the situation on LinkedIn, tagging Substack and calling their attention. A Substack representative reached out on Bryant’s behalf to Stripe for answers. 

“The user’s journal links to places to purchase unsupportable items which is why they fall into the Sub Cat 5,” they relayed. “For the user to be supportable, they would no longer be able to link to any sites that sell cannabis or cannabis supplies. There is an example on almost every page the user has published.” 

“This is not an exhaustive list,” they continue. “The user would need to audit their own blog and remove links and we would then re-review their page.”

A look into subcategory six of Stripe’s terms of service (the mentioned section five was not applicable) shows that Stripe may “terminate this Agreement (or any part) or close your Stripe Account at any time for any or no reason.” 

In Section 6.2, Stripe states it may “immediately suspend providing any or all Services to you, and your access to the Stripe Technology, if: (e) you breach this Agreement or any other agreement between the parties.”

The adhesion contract that Bryant violates references the service’s prohibited businesses, including marijuana. This policy specifically includes only the following policies: 

  • Cannabis dispensaries and related businesses 
  • CBD products with THC levels that are greater than the applicable local jurisdiction’s legal limit, including CBD edibles 
  • Hydroponic equipment and other cultivation or production equipment marketed for growing marijuana
  • Courses and information on cultivating marijuana. 

Only the last of these is in any way applicable to Cannabitch. Bryant has interviewed growers before on the platform, but Stripe never mentioned this as a part of their complaint. They stated that links to any sites that sell cannabis or cannabis supplies were the issue – an issue that is never explicitly raised in their terms of sales. 

Something particularly strange about the case of Cannabitch, despite many obvious examples of hypocrisy on Stripe’s part, is that the most recent publication was posted on October 23, 2023. Why Bryant, and why now? 

As it turns out, this wasn’t her first interaction with the payment platform. 

In an email to a representative for Substack, Bryant stated, “They’ve been asking me for documents since October, which I’ve diligently sent as requested, plus detailed info about my product over and over and over. They kept re-requesting and saying I never sent [them], even with email chains documenting it, and then said I missed the deadline last week. This week they said the account closed for reasons totally different from the supposed set deadline for info delivery, which I met over and over and over again.”

“Ugh that’s super annoying!” the representative replied. She asked Bryant to forward the thread to give her team the full context of the situation. 

This is when she was told to remove her publications with linked businesses (in the representative from Stripe’s words, “almost every page the user has published”). 

When asked by the Substack representative if she had complied, Bryant stated, “I decided not to. It’s censorship, and I’m not selling anything. If that’s the terms, then I guess I reject on principle and will just have to have an unpaid newsletter! It sucks but it’s a line too far for me… it’s too compromising for my ethics and I need to hold the line. Thank you so much for your help.”

By the end of our conversation, the signaturely sarcastic Bryant was incapable of being anything but earnest. “I’ve had to defend myself in court against actual defamation allegations as a journalist, but now I can’t even say I like something in my newsletter? I can’t link to a bong?”

“This links free speech to capitalism in a way that echoes the marketification of media – which now exists as a marketing tool for the wealthy and connected.”

While Bryant, independent journalist and mother to a ten-month-old, lost the ability to collect her follower’s voluntary support of her work, Stripe continued to support ecommerce giants like Amazon to directly sell cannabis accessories and growing solutions (as well as crack pipes, syringes, and knives). 

However, by 8:51 am on Friday morning, after a request for comment for this piece and what Bryant assumed was the end of the road, Stripe changed their tune. 

The plain-looking email read “Hi Jacqueline, Thank you for providing additional information about your business. We have successfully completed our review, and you are welcome to continue processing payments with Stripe. If you have any questions, you can contact us from any time at our support site.” 

She won — no compromises, no additional communication with the platform (beyond a parting, “Hope you all go to hell.”) 

Why Stripe gave up is anyone’s guess — be it Bryant’s steadfast determination, her well-researched rebuttals, her follower count. Maybe they just realized they made a mistake. The lesson I take away, (“Don’t negotiate with terrorists?” I imagine her interjecting) as a less experienced and more easily intimidated writer, is the same one my brother taught me the night before I left for Senior Week: know your rights.

The post Stripe Says No to Funding Cannabis Journalism, Backs Down After a Fight appeared first on High Times.

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