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Hawaii Goes Cashless For Marijuana

Hawaii announced that it is planning to be the first state to offer cashless cannabis sales in an effort to avoid robberies and other crimes targeting marijuana dispensaries.

According to a Bloomberg news report, the governor’s office said that all of Hawaii’s eight licensed dispensaries have agreed to go cashless by Oct. 1. The dispensaries will ask patients to use a mobile payment app called CanPay, which is already available for marijuana sales in six states, including California and Colorado.

The Hawaii dispensaries are setting up accounts with the Safe Harbor Private Banking credit union. Customers can use their checking accounts to pay with CanPay, which then sends the payment to Safe Harbor. Patients who don’t own smartphones can still create CanPay accounts with an email address and personal identification number, and then buy pot by logging onto their accounts with computer tablets at the dispensaries.

Hawaii is also working on accepting prepaid, stored-value cards as an alternative for people who don’t hold checking accounts. Helen Cho, director of the Honolulu-based Aloha Green dispensary, said dispensaries won’t be required to go cashless and the company won’t turn away patients who prefer to pay in cash. Instead, the dispensary will encourage people to use the new cashless system.

Becky Dansky, legislative counsel at Marijuana Policy Project, noted that while it’s good to find cashless alternatives, there is concern that Hawaii’s program relies on one specific system, especially due to the risks of hacking or even a company going out of business.

But credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard won’t allow their cards to be used to buy cannabis or marijuana-related products. And many marijuana businesses prefer cash, since it eases banks’ fears about getting into legal trouble with the U.S. government, which regulates banking and still bans marijuana.

During the Obama administration, the Justice Department issued guidelines to help banks avoid federal prosecution when dealing with pot businesses in states where it is legal. However, it is uncertain how the Trump administration will handle the issue as it pertains to marijuana laws. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has said he wants to crack down on the legal marijuana industry.

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