(AP) — State officials announced Tuesday that Hawaii will be the first state to require marijuana sales to be handled without cash, saying they want to avoid robberies and other crimes targeting dispensaries.
Medical marijuana dispensaries in Hawaii won’t be allowed to accept cash beginning as soon as 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.
Iris Ikeda, the state’s financial institutions commissioner, told reporters at a news conference that state officials haven’t discussed whether people wanting to pay in cash will be turned away from dispensaries.
“Oct. 1 is our target date to try to go cashless as much as we can,” Ikeda said.
Aloha Green, a medical marijuana dispensary on King Street in Honolulu, opened in August.
Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat
Many marijuana businesses use cash because banks fear pot 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 still working on allowing prepaid, stored-value cards to be used an alternative for people who don’t have checking accounts, Ikeda said.
Becky Dansky, legislative counsel at Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington-based organization that aims to change federal law to allow states to determine their own marijuana policies, said it’s good to find alternatives to dealing with large amounts of cash.
But she said it’s a concern that Hawaii’s program will rely on one specific system, given the risks of a hacker attack or a company going out of business.
Hawaii was among the first states to legalize medical marijuana in 2000 but the state didn’t grant licenses to 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 pot businesses in states where the drug is legal.
Financial Institutions Commissioner Iris Ikeda discusses Hawaii’s upcoming cashless marijuana sales system at a press conference with Gov. David Ige on Tuesday.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
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.
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 pot by logging on to their accounts with computer tablets at the dispensaries.
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