Cannabis and hemp related products are growing in popularity. It is a 800% growth market! The explosion of CBD and cannabis related products means that it is only going to get more popular. Creating such websites for clients is not without issues though. You pretty much encounter problems right down the chain of things to consider when making websites. I guess the first thing to discuss would be why are there these issues and can’t everyone just mellow out a bit?
Why do CBD / Cannabis products create issues for companies?
You may be aware that certain states in the United States are legislating for cannabis use whether medicinal or recreational. This is however only on a state level. The rules are different for every state. On a federal level however, cannabis is still classed as illegal. The federal level is what companies have to follow so in essence, any US incorporated business is having issues supporting this industry. US banks make it difficult, US payment providers, US hosting providers and it goes on.
There are horror stories of companies such as PayPal freezing your assets for 180 days or longer if you use them to take payments for cannabis related products. You may have been ignorant of the rules but that is not an excuse. Keep these things in mind if you are ever contracted to make such a website for a client. In all honesty, the best way to do things is to contact the support of such companies and being completely honest on what you wish to achieve. They are usually honest back and provide you with a yes or no and what documentation might be required. Unfortunately even if you find a provider to service you, they may put extra conditions on your relationship as cannabis is deemed a high risk industry.
What do I need to look out for?
Using Pressable web hosting for all the sites I host on WordPress, I didn’t even think twice when I created a new website instance for a CBD oil e-commerce store. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I got a rather brash email explaining that Pressable was unable to host the site and giving me 24 hours to remove it from their hosting services. This is a big enough hurdle and ask. After explaining to their staff regarding my ignorance of this, I asked them to provide me more time to do a migration and they were actually very easy to work with on this and extending the deadline. I am not mad at their support as they are just following the policy. After this email, I did some research however and asked WPEngine and Siteground through their live chat function about their policies on CBD oil / cannabis related websites. Both came back and told me pretty much the same answer; ‘If it is legal where you are selling it, we’d love to have you as a customer.’
Payment processing is another headache for cannabis related product sites. The two main payment processors that spring to mind are Stripe and PayPal. Both do not support cannabis related products so best to not even bother. There are a few more forward thinking companies willing to support it and some required monthly fees, retainers on income incase of charge backs and a stack of documents as evidence of THC levels, business proofs etc. Headaches all around. For a European based e-commerce store in this sector, I would recommend VivaPay with the ability to take card payments and an easy set up. Literally we had a functioning payment processor within 24 hours of first contact with their staff whereas other options were waiting for insurance to underwrite the business relationship etc which could take 7 working days and then no guarantee of it being successful.
Is it worth the effort?
Like I said at the start, this is a massive growth industry which is only going to get more massive as the years go by. You probably won’t be able to use the infrastructure and products you use for other projects when creating a cannabis related product website but with an open mind and exploration of the products on offer, you will find something that works for your client and their needs. Most people who shop online expect to be able to complete transactions using a card, providing such services for your customers will put you ahead of the stores who only accept bank transfers which is open to abuse and ensure the store you create stands out in it’s own professionalism.