Marijuana is legal in some form in more than half the country, but using a credit card to buy it is nearly impossible.
Like banks, credit card companies hesitate to get involved in the cannabis industry because the drug remains illegal at the federal level. That has meant most dispensaries around the country are only able to accept cash even though customers often spend more than $100 at a time.
These banking institutions fear the financial and/or criminal repercussions of providing cannabis companies with loans and lines of credit.
But the challenge goes beyond just catering to non-dilutive forms of financing. In many instances, marijuana businesses in the U.S., both big and small, struggle to secure something as simple as a checking account. This makes accepting credit cards virtually impossible. Even in instances where credit cards may be accepted, most banks deny consumers the right to purchase federally illicit substances, such as marijuana.
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.
“If you go to an ATM, you can only take out so much money,” he said. “If you go in and have the cash in your wallet, you can’t do much more than that.”
Suffice it to say, the U.S. pot industry has a cash crisis because cash is about the only mode of currency that keeps this industry moving. But cash can be very limiting. Not having any access to lines of credit or loans can slow expansion plans, acquisition activity, and hiring. It can even slow stock replenishing. And when added to the possible exposure of Section 280E of the U.S. tax code, which can impose very high effective tax rates on corporate income from marijuana businesses, the ability to expand, hire, and reorder product is further compromised.
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