Marijuana company Columbia Care is rolling out a credit card for customers to use at its dispensaries, creating a new payment option for a clientele that has largely had to deal in cash.
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. Many dispensaries have onsite ATMs, and some have systems that accept debit or ATM cards.
Columbia Care, which has a dispensary in the Jefferson Park neighborhood, has been testing its credit card in New York and plans to roll it out this month in Illinois, said CEO Nicholas Vita. Patients spend an average of $144 per visit at the Chicago dispensary.
“We have an industry where people have to use their debit cards or ATMs or cash to make purchases. It’s like 1974,” he said. “We’ve seen what happened when we introduced access to this capital, and it has a huge impact in giving patients access to the products they need and want.”
Patrons will fill out a form on a tablet in the dispensaries to get qualified, Vita said. The process is fast, and typically customers will be able to use their credit card to make a purchase on the same visit, he said.
Columbia Care is working with financial institutions and other intermediaries in each of the 12 states it operates in, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., on the credit cards. Vita declined to disclose the company’s local partner. The cards do not have fees, but the annual percentage rate for Illinois users will be 15.99 percent, Vita said. The national average annual percentage rate is