Processing payments is a major headache for state-licensed canna-businesses. Since banking regulations fall under federal law and cannabis remains prohibited at the federal level, most banks and financial institutions are hesitant to provide their services in case they fall afoul of the Department of Justice.
This means many marijuana retailers have to either accept cash or get creative when it comes to accepting digital payments. Neither option is without its issues.
Holding cash on-site presents a big security risk, while digital merchant options like cashless ATMs, ACH transfers or mobile apps incur extra costs to the retailer and potential inconvenience to the customer.
Legislative solutions in Congress to the marijuana banking issue have so far come up short. Federal cannabis legalization remains a distant hope, despite the efforts of Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, meanwhile, would allow banks to work with state-legal canna-businesses without the threat of federal reprisals, but it’s seen no action in the Senate despite clearing the House six times.
For many marijuana businesses, cryptocurrency could be the way out of this impasse, at least temporarily.
Dispensaries up and down the US are now accepting crypto payments, a secure and transparent digital currency based on blockchain technology.
At some point, these payments could come in the form of cannabis-based coins like DopeCoin and PotCoin but for the time-being they’re nowhere near the circulation levels needed to be truly viable. Instead, some dispensaries accept mainstream cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, but volatility remains a big concern. Who wants to pay $20 in crypto for a gram one day only to find it buys half as much the next?
Even dispensaries which don’t have a system in place to accept crypto payments are able to make use of middlemen services. POSaBIT, for instance, allows customers to buy crypto through their app with a credit or debit card. The customer can then use that crypto to buy cannabis at the dispensary. POSaBIT holds onto the customer’s crypto and pays the dispensary in dollars.
In essence, it’s a convoluted way of accepting debit and credit card payments without the cash withdrawal fees charged by cashless ATMs.
Taking crypto payments is time-consuming though, compared to cash. Budtenders need to wait for each transaction to be written onto the distributed digital ledger, one of the core components of blockchain technology. This is then shared and verified by another company.
Speedier solutions might come soon. For sure, marijuana and crypto are at the very beginning of what will prove to be a fruitful relationship.