If you have ever frequented a marijuana dispensary, chances are you have both arrived and left with plenty of green. That’s because many shops require cash to complete a transaction, a byproduct of pot’s illegal status on the federal level.
But one cannabis company is aiming to change that. CBS News reported last week on a credit card that is being offered to customers of Columbia Care, a medical marijuana company that operates in 11 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
With the card, patients can make purchases at Columbia Care dispensaries without forking over a thick wad of cash. Columbia Care offered the service to fill a void left by banks and credit card companies, which are skittish about doing business with marijuana companies.
“You have this industry, which is measured in the tens of billions of dollars, and people can’t transact using normal forms of commerce,” said Columbia Care CEO and co-founder Nicholas Vita, as quoted by CBS News.
The Case for Cannabis Credit Cards
The inability to use credit cards for such purchases underscores the divide between the federal government and states and cities which have lifted marijuana prohibition in some form. More than 30 states have legalized medical marijuana, while more than a dozen states and cities have legalized it for recreational use.
That dilemma could be resolved, however, under legislation currently being taken up by the U.S. Senate. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which was passed by the House of Representatives in September with bipartisan support, would aim to “create protections for depository institutions that provide financial services to cannabis-related legitimate businesses and service providers for such businesses, and for other purposes.”
The bill is currently being considered by the Senate Banking Committee.
Columbia Care announced its credit card back in June, months before the marijuana banking bill advanced out of the House.
“We have an industry where people have to use their debit cards or ATMs or cash to make purchases. It’s like 1974,” Vita said at the time. “We’ve seen what happened when we introduced access to this capital, and it has a huge impact in giving patients access to the products they need and want.”