Buying legal cannabis just became even more difficult.
Mastercard, the second-largest payment-processing company in the world, has advised partnering financial institutions to stop allowing cannabis purchases with its debit cards. The move is in response to a loophole used by some cannabis buyers and dispensaries where stores accepted PIN transactions with debit cards despite cannabis’s federal illegality.
“As we were made aware of this matter, we quickly investigated it. In accordance with our policies, we instructed the financial institutions that offer payment services to cannabis merchants and connects them to Mastercard to terminate the activity,” a spokesperson for the company said on Wednesday, according to reports.
“The federal government considers cannabis sales illegal, so these purchases are not allowed on our systems,” the spokesperson added.
In response to Mastercard’s decision, cannabis industry stakeholders are emphasizing the need for Congress to act on federal cannabis legalization.
“Ultimately, the only way financial institutions are going to be comfortable working with us is by getting the OK from the federal government,” said Wendy Bronfein, chief brand officer and director of public policy for Maryland-based Curio Wellness, per WBALTV.
Darren Weiss, president of Chicago-based Verano Holdings, voiced his disapproval with Mastercard’s decision.
“Never ceases to amaze me that an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people, provides billions in economic benefits, and promotes safer alternatives to pharmaceuticals and commonplace vices continues to be treated like a pariah. #SMH #cannabis,” Weiss said in a Tweet.
Adult-use cannabis is legal in 23 states while medical cannabis is legal in 38 states, as well as Washington, D.C.
Furthermore, a record-high 68% of U.S. adults support federal adult-use cannabis legalization, according to a November 2022 Gallup poll. That’s a 20 percentage point increase from 48% in 2012, and a remarked increase from 12% in 1969, when Gallup first conducted the poll.
The news of Mastercard’s decision to prohibit cannabis purchases on its debit cards was first reported by Bloomberg News.