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Cannabis Legal Status and its Impact on Cannabis Payment Solutions

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Cannabis Legal Status

Cannabis Legal Status and its Impact on Cannabis Payment Solutions

Legality depends on the state and regulations are changing all the time. Learn what payment options are available to cannabis dispensaries, growers, B2B, and the entire supply chain.

January 30, 2024
Cannabis Legal Status and its Impact on Cannabis Payment Solutions


The Controlled Substances Act of 1970 made the possession of cannabis for any purpose federally illegal. Nonetheless, the Federal Government has begrudgingly permitted individual states to establish their own laws surrounding medical and recreational cannabis. The classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 Drug creates legal complications, especially for cannabis enterprises operating near state borders or across state lines.

From the very beginning, cash was overwhelmingly the dominant form of payment in the cannabis space, because of the federal illegality of cannabis. Cannabis businesses typically would have their customers make cash withdrawals from an in-store ATM and would not accept any form of credit or debit card.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the cannabis industry experienced explosive growth and dispensaries started moving away from cash in higher numbers to avoid the spread of illness and the change shortage. While America slowly returns to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer’s preference for digital payments versus cash has remained. Digital payments are quicker, cleaner, and more convenient. Plus, no ATM fees.


Through the passing of the 2018 Farm Bill, the cultivation of industrial hemp, classified as cannabis containing .3% or less of the psychoactive 'euphoric' chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), is federally legal.

All mainstream credit cards and payment methods are compliant for purchasing hemp-derived, non-Cannabidiol (CBD) products, i.e., hemp seeds and fiber.

Hemp-Derived CBD

CBD is the prominent non-intoxicating chemical, with multiple potential therapeutic benefits, found in both hemp and cannabis. Though the Farm Bill federally legalized industrial hemp cultivation, the regulations around the sale and purchasing of hemp-derived CBD products vary from state to state.

Where permitted, consumers can purchase CBD products with all mainstream credit cards.

Additionally, major eCommerce platforms such as BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and Shopify make it possible for licensed businesses to sell CBD products online and accept mainstream payments.

Yet, there are still nuances around selling these hemp-derived products compliantly. One nuance surrounds hemp-extracted delta-8 THC, a euphoric compound that through a loophole, its federal legality remains hazy. Since the Farm Act allows the growing and extracting of industrial hemp, delta-8 is possibly legal in states where cannabis is still banned. As there isn’t significant research around delta-8 and it is currently unregulated, some states have outright banned Delta-8 THC, with others considering or updating their laws to regulate the compound.

Cannabis - Medicinal and Adult Recreational Use

Is there any difference legally between Medicinal Cannabis and Adult Recreational Use?

Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 37 states, the District of Columbia (D.C.), and four U.S. territories including Puerto Rico. As of January 2023, cannabis is fully legal (meaning, medicinal and recreational) in 21 states, D.C., and two U.S. territories (Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands). 

Legal recreational states include:

  • Colorado
  • Washington
  • Alaska
  • Oregon
  • Washington, D.C.
  • California
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • Michigan
  • Vermont
  • Illinois
  • Arizona
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Virginia
  • New Mexico
  • Connecticut
  • Rhode Island
  • Maryland
  • Missouri
  • Delaware
  • Minnesota
  • Ohio

Several states have fully legalized cannabis in 2022, with more expected to propose and pass some form of legalization legislation in the foreseeable future.

Yet until federal reform legalizes cannabis, major card providers remain unwilling to work with businesses in the cannabis industry.

In general, the cannabis industry currently has a lot of momentum. When taken to a vote, most cannabis legal initiatives have resulted in the statewide legalization of cannabis.

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