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Digital Payments vs. Cash in Dispensaries

July 11, 2022
Rachel Ludwig

The most common form of cannabis payments at dispensaries is cash. However, data collected after the COVID-19 pandemic showed that 51% of customers prefer to make contactless, secure payments for goods and services. While cannabis is still illegal at the federal level, payment options for dispensaries remain complicated.


While cannabis remains under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), financial institutions require dispensaries to complete rigorous paperwork and record-keeping, making a budtender’s responsibilities more difficult. Cash payments allow dispensaries to avoid traditional banking, but is this work-around actually a safe and efficient method for both the cannabis dispensary and the customer?


Between human error and security issues, cash cannabis payments come with high risk. When dispensaries adopt  contactless payments, both the storefront and the customer benefit. Aeropay, which moves money electronically and securely via bank-to-bank transfers, offers a payment solution to solve the inherent issues of cash payments and puts everyone at ease. In fact, customer trends show that digital payment methods are preferred – with an influx of online shopping. Aeropay offers online shopping and delivery for dispensaries, with methods for customers to tip their delivery drivers as well.


Cash management is tricky


When paying with cash, it is up to the budtender and their employees to maintain detailed accounts of the dispensary’s income. Debit and credit cards have their own transactional record through a bank, but cash must be manually counted. Not only does this increase the probability of human error, but it is also a tedious task to complete during a rush. In any business, time is money. Consider how much longer and inefficient a checkout process is when a customer and an employee are required to exchange exact amounts of cash. A busy budtender might miscount cash, costing either the business or the customer.


A digital payment option is simple and much quicker, Aeropay allows customers to scan a QR code with their phones. Aeropay also offers pre-payments for customers who are in a hurry, and provides businesses with an already established electronic record for each sale. Businesses gain more precise accounting assistance, and these records are offered to customers in the form of itemized receipts, another perk that cash or cashless ATM charges via a cannabis credit card processor cannot offer. 


Cash payments come with security risks


It is well known that the cannabis industry majorly deals with cash putting a target on dispensaries for theft and robbery. Without the use of cannabis credit card processing or debit cards, dispensaries are not able to immediately transfer funds into a secure account. The hurdle of federal rules has created cash stockpiling issues within the industry, leaving budtenders constantly on edge. There are many reports of dispensaries being robbed at gunpoint. Some budtenders in California have resorted to positioning armed guards out front after their stores suffered from losses of nearly $1 million dollars. Other dispensaries used armored vehicles to transport their cash, but even that precaution isn’t foolproof, as a supplier was robbed while refueling gas. Whether or not these extra security measures are successful, they are costly to dispensaries, and these extra costs will affect the prices of goods.

Digital payments made possible by Aeropay


Aeropay is fully compliant with federal laws and backed by the financial institution Safe Harbor, the leading compliance-based banking program for cannabis businesses and an affiliate of Partner Colorado Credit Union. All the extra paperwork and due diligence has already been done, to offer secure payments for dispensaries and customers, creating an accurate and safe space for businesses to thrive.


Rachel Ludwig

Digital Marketing Manager
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