The weed industry has traditionally been a cash-only operation. Yet one dispensary chain in Nevada and California accepts credit card payments by billing itself as a food truck rather than a pot shop.
Blüm dispensary sales show up as “Midgrun Eats LLC food truck” on credit card statements, which the Reno Gazette Journal described as a “back door tactic to skirt federal banking regulations and make more money.”
Currently, credit card companies and national banks won’t do business with any licensed cannabis company that handles the plant directly. States may have legalized weed, but the federal government hasn’t. Although the US Department of Treasury released guidelines for banks and creditors to handle weed accounts in 2014, credit card companies have been wary of handling cannabis revenue due to fears they’ll be prosecuted for money laundering under RICO statutes.
Representatives of Blüm did not respond to the Reno Gazette Journal, nor would the US Attorney’s office in Nevada confirm if it was investigating the dispensary.
Of course, Blüm isn’t the first pot shop to accept credit card payments. In years past, dispensaries often ran cards despite the legal and regulatory grey area. But after Washington State and Colorado first launched recreational weed sales, pot shops across the country stopped accepting plastic as a form of payment, relying entirely on cash exchanges instead.
Why would Blüm risk the feds’ wrath? As with everything else in business, it boils down to the bottom line.
"I’m not a statistician, so I don't know that customers will spend more if they have a credit card, but a business that takes credit cards, it’s more convenient for customers," Jeremy Skaff, vice president of sales at Journey Business Solutions, told the Reno Gazette Journal. "The more options that you give people to pay, the more business you’re going to get. No one carries cash anymore."
Credit cards also offer bonuses that customers can’t get when dealing with straight cash.
"People love using credit cards, you get points!” Will Adler, the principal at Silver State Government Relations, said to the Reno Gazette Journal. “It’s a competitive edge. The convenience of being the only guy that takes credit cards, that's a big advantage.”
The US Congress is debating a bill that would allow banks and creditors to open accounts for cannabis companies. But due to federal laws that classify marijuana as a Schedule I substance, the bill may go nowhere, as similar bills have in the past.
The weed industry has tried to circumvent the banking/credit ban by creating its own credit cards or other forms of digital payments. These programs have had limited success so far, probably because most tokers, despite how high they’d like to get, would prefer to fly below the radar, as it were.
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