Could Oregon and Washington marijuana dispensaries go cashless?

CanPay cap.jpg
CanPay is a mobile payment system. (KATU Photo)

The business of legal marijuana in the United States, whether medicinal or recreational, continues to evolve. Hawaii has taken a step that changes things once again.

Hawaii hasn't legalized recreational weed, but medical marijuana is legal there. In an effort to prevent robberies and other crimes targeting dispensaries, state leaders announced Tuesday that a cashless payment system will be implemented in October.

"This cash-free solution makes sense," said Hawaii Gov. David Ige. "It makes dispensaries' finances transparent."

It's unclear if Hawaii's cashless payment model will be mandatory or simply encouraged. But the state is using CanPay, a mobile payment system already in place in several states, including Oregon and Washington. According to some retailers, its use is growing, albeit slowly.

"Like many other types of accounts like PayPal, people are a little reluctant to share some of their personal information with a company they're not familiar with," said Geoff Sugarman, the chief compliance officer for Serra Dispensaries in Portland.

Sugarman has been involved in marijuana policy for decades and doesn't foresee Oregon moving toward any kind of mandatory cashless model.

"We want to make sure that our customers have alternatives," said Sugarman. "So for those people who can't use a CanPay system or a merchant services account, we have to be able to take cash from them."

Sugarman also takes issue with the security issue surrounding businesses that deal in large volumes of cash.

"The research shows you that dispensaries or retail marijuana stores actually are very safe places," he said. "There have been very few examples of people trying to come in and get cash."