American Express Classifies Medical Marijuana With Online Porn


Photo: Shadow Tech

‚ÄčDid you know your credit card company gets input on your medical decisions?

American Express, the most conservative of the major credit card companies, recently banned its customers from using the cards to buy medical marijuana — which is legal in 16 states. Medical marijuana joins online pornography on a short list of AmEx-banned purchases, which shows you roughly where the company’s coming from, moral judgment-wise.

So why should a financial institution get input on your medical decisions? Why should they care if you pursue one method of treatment — a natural, non-toxic herb — over harsh pharmaceuticals? Why are they acting as if a medical need for many of their customers — that is to say, doctor-recommended cannabis — is some sort of shameful vice?
Why are they treating seriously ill medical marijuana patients the same as a horned-up Bigg Juggs fan?

Photo: Dan Chung/Guardian

‚ÄčThose are good questions, and ones that American Express customers should keep asking the company. And if those customers don’t get some damn good answers, they should quickly become ex-customers.
Last month, shortly before Delaware became the 16th state to legalize medical marijuana, American Express told merchants that its cards could not be used to buy it, reports Quentin Fottrell at SmartMoney.
American Express is the most conservative of the big three credit card companies, according to SmartMoney. It bans the purchase of medical marijuana, as well as online pornography. Visa and MasterCard allow purchases of both of those items for their credit and debit card holders.
MasterCard and Visa said that their cards can be used for “any legal purchases.”
But American Express said its business model, which primarily issues cards directly to customers rather than through a bank, requires it to be “more conservative about risk.” The company claims it abides by federal law and prohibits transactions where the “risk of dispute” is “unusually high.”
Similarly, the company claims its ban on all online pornography — even legal adult material — as “an additional safeguard”, according to spokesperson Christine S. Elliott. Elliott calls it “a risk-based decision,” claiming “This is not a moral judgment.”
Ironically, the company does allow the purchase of pornography — but not medical marijuana — from brick-and-mortar stores.
When it comes to marijuana, American Express points to federal law, which still prohibits the use of cannabis even for medical purposes.
“We wouldn’t want to unduly inconvenience cardholders, but we are adhering to federal law,” Elliott claimed.
Industry experts say consumers may have little choice but to watch credit card companies further restrict their spending habits. But at least for now, you still have the choice of cutting up — or at least never using — your American Express card.
If you do cut your card up, send it to American Express with a note explaining exactly why.
If you’d like to provide American Express with feedback regarding their ban on legal medical marijuana purchases, you may do so by clicking here.