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Hawaii Says It’s 1st State to Go Cashless for Cannabis Sales

September 12, 2017
(AleksandarGeorgiev/iStock)
HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii said Tuesday that it will be the first state to require marijuana sales to be handled without cash, saying it wanted to avoid robberies and other crimes targeting dispensaries.

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii won’t be allowed to accept cash beginning Oct. 1 and will require people to use a debit payment app instead. The app is already an option for marijuana transactions in six states, including California and Colorado.

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Many marijuana businesses use cash because banks fear cannabis money could expose them to legal trouble from the U.S. government, which regulates banking and still bans marijuana.

The debit app called CanPay uses a Colorado-based credit union to facilitate transactions. Some mainland credit unions have opened accounts for cannabis businesses.

Hawaii was among the first states to legalize medical marijuana in 2000 but the state didn’t grant licenses to any dispensaries until last year. Maui Grown Therapies became the first to open last month after the state Department of Health gave it approval to begin sales.

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department issued guidelines to help banks avoid federal prosecution when dealing with cannabis businesses in states where the drug is legal.

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But most banks don’t see those rules as a shield against charges that could include aiding drug trafficking. And they say the rules are difficult to follow, placing the burden on banks to determine if a cannabis business is operating within the law.

There is also uncertainty over how the Trump administration will react. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he wants to crack down on the legal marijuana industry.

Credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard say they won’t allow their cards to be used to buy cannabis or marijuana-related products.

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Patients who don’t own smartphones will have to create CanPay accounts with an email address and personal identification number. Patients will be able buy cannabis by logging on to their accounts with computer tablets at the dispensaries.

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  • william BINNIE

    I hope this is not a back door way of creating a user data base

  • Because banks are federally insured and cannabis is still considered a Schedule I narcotic, cannabis-related businesses are not allowed to have bank accounts. According to this article, dispensaries are allowed to have ATMs, but the gotcha is, we have no where to deposit this money. Are we missing something? We need better solutions than this.

  • Dan McMahon

    I have interacted directly with these dispensaries as well as a number of these medical patients that this will affect. Not only do many of them not have smart phones, but there’s a lot of them that likely don’t have their own bank accounts. Providing an OPTION for electronic payments and also having a safe solution for the dispensaries to deposit and transport the cash is the solution. Hawaii needs to work with the banks on a validation process for deposits using their top of the line CSTS (Tracking system), I already know for a fact it has the reporting capability to verify these sales which could be provided to banks. Forcing the issue here is going to do 3 main things. First, it’s going to put a much greater damper on access for medical patients in Hawaii. Second and subsequently, it’s going to drive up the black market for people already concerned about being scrutinized for needing their medication and now needing to jump through extra hoops while the black market will cater to the easy way culture. Lastly, this type of closed loop system has already been considered and not implemented elsewhere for a reason. It’s nothing more than glorified money laundering. The only thing that would keep AG Sessions out of this frying pan and even using it as a means to file a RICO case, is if it hops out of the frying pan and into the fire before he gets a chance. This market hasn’t even had a chance to build itself up yet and they are already looking to shrink it. I understand their intent on safety, but pushing the majority of business back to the black market isn’t going to do that. Hopefully it all works out though.

  • Even the credit unions have shut our accounts down since Sessions’ sabra rattling and the reinstatement of assets forfeiture.