A cashless society is looking more and more probable as time goes by. Cash is being seen and promoted as an ancient relic and something that is hard to manage. In contrast, paying by cards and apps is viewed as trendy and easy. And in many instances, this is actually true. Paying by card is far easier than paying by cash, as it takes effort to go to ATM machines as well as pay the associated fees. Cards are also far more secure as opposed to cash, which carries the risk of theft. And there are more and more innovative ways of purchasing goods and services coming out each and every day, indicating that a cashless society is definitely coming, and the only question is when.
Hawaii Moving Forward
Hawaii, a State that has not yet legalized recreational marijuana, is all set to become the first State with cashless medical marijuana dispensaries. Hawaii is definitely one of the more “progressive” and liberal states, and in an effort to prevent theft and robberies recently announced that all of its dispensaries would be cashless by October. Most medical dispensaries use an application known as Canpay, which is designed specifically for the payment of cannabis at medical dispensaries. The use of this application is growing and it is already used almost exclusively in Oregon and Washington, two early adopters of recreational and medical marijuana.
Data Breaches and Cashless Dispensaries
As with all forms of cashless payments, customers remain reluctant to share personal data with such companies that they are not familiar with. Given the recent data breach by Equifax, which affected the records of millions of credit customers, this concern is highly validated. Equifax refused to reveal the breach until 6 weeks after they had found out, with executive officers selling all of their shares in the meantime. The fact that people are obliged to share their details with this company in order to obtain a credit rating does not sit well with many people. With cashless payment the main concern is always going to be security, and breaches at such large companies does not exactly facilitate customer trust or loyalty. According to the Chief Compliance Officer Geoff Sugarman at Portland medical dispensary:
“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,”
Sugarman does not see Oregon moving forward with any kind of mandatory cashless model, though does encourage customers to use alternatives such as Canpay. He also indicates that medical dispensaries are quite safe places, with few places that are safer. The medical marijuana is itself worth a lot of money, so the dispensary is already going to have sophisticated security systems in place. In 2014 there was a medical marijuana scare when hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries lost their cashless ATM accounts. Over 300 dispensaries were affected, and the fault was held to be tied to MetaBank – a major financial institution supporting ATM services. These incidents do not inspire customer trust or loyalty, and until they stop happening so frequently, cash will still remain in force, despite the opposition to cash by politicians and elite societal members.
A Cashless Future?
Washington is in a similar situation to Oregon, as both have legalized recreational marijuana and have experience in regulating and selling medical and recreational marijuana for some time. It is likely that medical marijuana dispensaries will go public at around the same time that cash is almost completely eliminated everywhere else. There is no fundamental reason why medical dispensaries should require customers to only purchase via cashless means. This will raise many eyebrows, as the government will have full access to customer data. Needless to say, customers no long want either the government or corporations to have access to any kind of sensitive data. Companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have been accused of providing sensitive data to NASA and other government agencies. Medical marijuana companies are much smaller state-owned bodies, and third-party payment vendorsare small scale corporate fish in the grander scheme of things. Aside from this there is the general incompetence and corruption of corporation institutions such as Equifax. Bearing all this in mind cashless might not be a welcome option for many medical marijuana customers. As always, the best option is to simply let the free market decide. Provide the cashless option and let the people choose whether they want to pay in cash or digitally. Having to obtain a permit to obtain medical grade marijuana is already a ridiculous situation, forcing people to hand over their sensitive data to entities that have continually proven to be corrupt and incompetent is tyrannical.