In a move to have less cash on hand, one Tacoma, Wash., cannabis dispensary is now accepting cash-free transactions through an alternative payment system.
To use the Chicago-based software company’s payment platform, customers can go to register.aeropay.com to create an account and link their bank account to start paying with their phones, according to Mary Mart’s website.
The rollout comes weeks after a male worker at the World of Weed dispensary in Tacoma was fatally shot during an attempted robbery involving a pair of teenage suspects on March 19. That was the third fatal incident involving a dispensary robbery in less than a week in the western part of the state.
Mary Mart’s new cashless payment system is convenient for customers and safer for dispensary staff members, the store’s general manager, Billy White, told KOMO News.
“People talk a lot about how we are cash-only businesses, but they never talk about the security precautions that we’re taking in these places,” White said.
In addition to the World of Weed shooting, two teenage suspects also stormed into the Mary Mart dispensary last month, pointed a gun at a worker’s head and fired a round into the ceiling, before they stole cannabis products and cash from the business, KOMO News reported.
The robberies come at a time when the cannabis retail industry remains a target of violent crime with the absence of traditional banking because the plant remains illegal under federal law. While some cannabis businesses utilize local and regional banking in the U.S., options are limited and most of the retail industry operates in cash without federal clarity providing safe harbor to financial institutions servicing cannabis clients.
Lawmakers in states like Pennsylvania and Oklahoma are attempting to provide safe banking alternatives for their licensed cannabis operators in the interim, but now some retailers are attempting to take safety measures upon themselves.
The Dreamer Cannabis adult-use dispensary in Southampton, Mass., for instance, began using a third-party platform in February that allows customers to use credit for their purchases. Instead of swiping a card at a terminal, the retailer sends customers a text message, they enter their name and credit card information and then hit pay from their phones.
The moves by those like Dreamer Cannabis and Mary Mart come on the heels of Visa issuing a warning in December 2021 about point-of-sale (POS) transactions dubbed as “cashless ATMs,” where budtenders, for instance, can round a $55 order up to $60 on a debit card and give customers $5 back in cash.
“Cashless ATMs are POS devices driven by payment applications that mimic standalone ATMs,” the Visa memo stated. “However, no cash disbursements are made to cardholders. Instead, the devices are used for purchase transactions, which are miscoded as ATM cash disbursements. Purchase amounts are often rounded up to create the appearance of a cash disbursement.”
Taking cash and credit-card companies out of the equation, AeroPay allows customers to link transactions directly to their bank accounts.
“Our payment solution is really excellent for high-risk industries,” Emmylou de Meij, client success manager at AeroPay, told KOMO News. “Just having cash on the premise has a lot of security risks that come with it.”
While some cashless payment services charge transactions fees high enough to turn away some business owners, AeroPay averages about 2% on a sliding scale for industries the software company serves, the news outlet reported.