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Security Risks with Cannabis Payments Today, What You Need to Know

April 25, 2022
Jordan Eide

The cannabis industry is in evident need of more secure payments for dispensaries. Currently, federal laws prohibit dispensaries from accepting customers’ credit and debit cards, leaving most businesses to rely on cash payments. 

However, any time a cannabis retailer carries a large amount of cash, it is put at a high risk of theft – both inside and outside of the store. Aeropay offers a secure way to sell and pay for cannabis via ACH transfers – creating a safer space for sellers and buyers alike. 

Dispensaries are easy targets

Any business that is known publicly to have large amounts of cash on hand is vulnerable to theft. Because most regulated retailers in the cannabis industry cannot access mainstream banking services, point of sales transactions are notably done in cash, and funds are not always immediately transferred to a bank account. While some dispensaries allow customers to use debit cards at checkout, these businesses are likely utilizing cashless ATM payments, which violates most payment processors’ policies. 

Recently, budtenders in Washington were held at gunpoint before thieves stole cash and cannabis from a storefront. These days, dispensaries are frequent targets. In fact, there has been such an increase in burglaries that a marijuana advocacy group released a ‘Robbery Preparedness Guide’ to help cannabis retailers implement a comprehensive security strategy. 

Beyond these recommended practices, dispensaries often depend on complex security systems. Loud alarms, floodlights, and videotaping measures certainly help deter theft – however, they are costly for business owners, and are not 100% effective. 

Not all dispensaries have bank accounts

Even in places where cannabis is legal, financial institutions are not always able to provide bank accounts for dispensaries. Without a national law framework, not all banks can handle such a compliance-intensive industry. So, legal cannabis businesses are forced to store large amounts of cash on their own.  

For this reason, the most common type of theft in dispensaries happens behind the counter by employees. It is estimated that 90% of product and funds are stolen by staff members, MJ Biz Daily reports. A payment system that deals mostly in cash hinders day-to-day cannabis operations since business owners cannot easily trace their store’s cash flows. With credit card payments, there is a clear record of money being transferred to the business’s account. Cash isn’t as easily recorded, so there are plenty of opportunities for employees to take advantage of its flawed nature. 

Capital loss due to human error

Because cannabis is a cash-intensive industry, budtenders are faced with numerous challenges while keeping track of their capital. Owning a cannabis business comes with a heavy tax burden. In the state of California, there is a $154.40 tax per pound of flower, a 15% excise tax, and a 7.25% sales tax –not including any existing local municipal taxes or fees. Managing income and putting aside funds for taxes is not an easy task when dealing with the physicality of logistics. Additionally, paying these taxes in cash can become a tricky process – especially because city buildings closed during COVID-19. Budtenders are forced to find reliable money order systems, which can be time-consuming and dangerous. 

Outside dispensaries, danger follows

When it’s time to deposit the cash somewhere safely, the transportation of funds is a high risk process. Even if budtenders or cannabis suppliers take discreet precautions, such as traveling in unmarked or armored vehicles, robberies can still occur –for instance, this supplier got robbed while refueling gas. 

In states where cannabis deliveries are legal, cash transactions create an additional layer of risk for employees and customers alike. With the exchange of goods and cash happening outside the walls of a business, both the delivery person and the customer can be easy targets for burglaries. What can begin as a cannabis transaction, can quickly become something much more sinister

A safer option: ACH payments with Aeropay

ACH payments, or bank transfer payments can truly put the cannabis industry at ease. Aeropay has come up with the solution to provide secure transaction processing for dispensaries because it’s partnered with the leading compliance-based banking program, Safe Harbor,  leading compliance-based banking program for cannabis businesses. In order to make cannabis payments safer and more efficient for businesses and customers, Aeropay has done the necessary due diligence to ensure cannabis payments are legal, digital and seamless. This means budtenders are able to use a bank account to carefully store and manage their funds. 

Aeropay is an immediate payment system that allows funds to go from one bank account to another. Customers can safely pay for their favorite products using their mobile device, and dispensaries don’t have to harbor large amounts of cash in their storefronts. Not only does this create a safer atmosphere, but it’s also a more efficient way for customers to shop. 

Aeropay also provides clear records for business owners to keep track of payments, which thwarts employee theft. Integrating ACH payments into retail operations allows businesses to keep thorough records, which further legitimizes the rapidly growing cannabis industry by preventing money laundering and tax evasion. 

Ultimately, ACH payments eliminate the need to transport large amounts of funds in any type of vehicle, and it creates a safer method of payment for customers who are getting their cannabis delivered to their home. 

The cannabis industry deserves a secure payment system that keeps both the business owner and customer safe. Aeropay’s mission to provide a fully transparent cannabis payments system will help dispensaries get the same levels of protection that more established industries are intrinsically provided. 


Jordan Eide

Growth & Marketing Manager
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