Hawaii is making a bold move by creating the country’s first completely cashless marijuana market. As of October 1, the great state will mandate that all cannabis transactions be done using a debit payment app, according to a statement reported by the Associated Press.
Hawaii’s motivation for the move seems pretty sound. Avoiding cash, of course, helps to avoid crimes which target dispensaries. In other states with legal and medical marijuana, robberies have been a problem. That’s at least partially because cannabis shops and dispensaries tend to keep a lot of cash, being as many of them stay away from banks (or, more accurately, most banks stay away from them).
CanPay is an app already used in six states, including Colorado and California. The system uses a Colorado-based credit union which is one of the few banks willing to tempt federal interference by doing business with the cannabis industry.
The Obama-era Justice Department tried to help banks negotiate the legally mucky terrain of cannabis finance by issuing guidelines, but federal law can still find banks guilty of crimes including aiding in drug trafficking, even if they deal with state-licensed vendors.
According to the AP, major credit card companies Visa and Mastercard will not, if they can help it, let cannabis be bought using their cards.
And things are not looking to get any more legally friendly for banks who want to do business with the legal marijuana industry. Attorney General Jeff Sessions just last week restated that he opposes cannabis legalization and maintains that, “Federal law remains in effect.”
Meanwhile his Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein issued even more ominous statements, saying that the Justice Department is reviewing policies, such as the Cole Memo, put in place to protect state-legal cannabis businesses from federal prosecution. “We are reviewing that policy,” Rosenstein said in an appearance at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
“We’re looking at the states that have legalized or decriminalized marijuana, trying to evaluate what the impact is. And I think there is some pretty significant evidence that marijuana turns out to be more harmful than a lot of people anticipated, and it’s more difficult to regulate than I think was contemplated ideally by some of those states.”