Merchant payment solutions for cannabis dispensaries

With the legalization of cannabis for medical use in 28 states and the District of Columbia, you might think that it would be easy to buy your cannabis. With many dispensaries that have opened up to provide a service to patients with a medical need for cannabis, it is not as easy as it looks, especially if you want to pay with a credit card.

Dispensaries face a challenge in payments

Medical cannabis dispensaries have been facing a huge challenge in the face of federal laws, and have been unable to process payments using credit and debit cards. So much so that many have had to invest in bullet-proof glass and other major security standards in order to protect the huge amounts of cash that they carry on site.

Cannabis is still a Schedule 1 narcotic

Federal laws have not yet been relaxed on cannabis, despite the state legislation that has legalized its use by patients. Moreover, the current federal laws, as well as the banking regulations, have meant that most banks and credit card providers will not allow the cards to be used for payment of what is still classed as a Schedule 1 narcotic under federal law.

Dispensaries are offering card payments

However, there are some dispensaries that are now offering the ability to make payments with a card, and payment processing companies that are offering their solutions to sellers of medical cannabis. Accepting card and mobile payments means that the merchants are able to provide their business to a much larger audience and a more diverse customer base. Moreover, the use of digital transactions can increase business efficiency and make their accounting more accurate, while giving the consumer a much better customer experience.

Banks are scared to provide services

Another hurdle to get over is getting the big financial institutions to be more comfortable with card payments for medical marijuana. Both the Treasury Department and the Justice Department have publicly stated that there will be no repercussions for banks who work with dispensaries in the states where medical marijuana is legal. However, the banks and lenders are saying that the guidelines are not well defined and there is no guarantee that legal proceedings will not be faced by the banks who allow cards to be used for payment.

Receipts tell a different story

Instead, many dispensaries are using other means to allow their customers to make card payments. In Denver, 38 of the 78 licensed dispensaries have started taking cards as payment methods, and according to Fox31, a Denver news channel, dispensaries are providing receipts with other details than marijuana. In their investigation of dispensaries, a credit card purchase of marijuana in one store appeared on the card statement as “AJS Holdings LLC”. And in another, the receipt simply said “Indoor Garden Products”.

Attorney General supports card payment solutions

In a statement during an appearance at the University of Virginia, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told the audience that dispensaries should be allowed to use the banking system normally. “There’s a public safety component to this. Substantial amounts of cash, just kind of lying around with no place for it to be appropriately deposited, is something that would worry me, just from a law enforcement perspective,” he said

While federal law still sees card payments as illegal, dispensaries need the services of the financial institutions to succeed and make the whole system open and transparent for regulation and taxation.

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