Cash-only for medical marijuana at some dispensaries

11:04 PM, Sep 28, 2011   |    comments
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Some medical marijuana patients say that's a problem because some metro area dispensaries have had their credit card machines pulled from the stores.

One dispensary asked us to find out why, and we learned the problem might be with the credit card machine vendors.

The metro area dispensary owner who contacted us says her vendor blamed it on major credit card companies, saying the companies no longer approve of medical marijuana purchases.

However, one medical marijuana lawyer thinks it's the vendors who are a little worried about the federal laws.

Robert Lipscombe says he's a Vietnam veteran and needs medical marijuana for post traumatic stress disorder.

On Wednesday morning when he went to fill his prescription at the dispensary he goes to, he pulled out a credit card to pay for the medical marijuana.

"She said, 'You can't use your credit cards in here no more,' and I said, 'What?'" Lipscombe said.

We talked to the owner of the dispensary Lipscombe is a patient at. She didn't want us to use her name or dispensary's name.

"My customers are outraged," the woman said.

She says it all started a few days ago when her credit card machine vendor called.

"I got a phone call from United Payment Services and they said, 'Shut the machines down right now,' and I asked why, and they said Visa and Mastercard were no longer allowing purchases to be used for medical marijuana," the dispensary owner said.

A Visa spokesperson says they haven't changed their policies. Mastercard hasn't returned emails or calls from 9NEWS.

United Payment Services, based in California, told us they weren't interested in commenting on the story.

"They basically told me the same thing they told you, 'No comment,'" the woman said.

"How dare you deny me, the right to purchase my medication," Lipscombe said.

9NEWS called several dispensaries around the metro area. A few tell us vendors are indeed pulling their machines, but most dispensaries are still taking credit cards.

"I have heard of a handful of credit card vendors pulling out. It's an unfortunate trend. They apparently have mixed feelings about the federal law," Brian Vicente, a medical marijuana advocate and lawyer with Sensible Colorado, said.

On June 29, 2011, the U.S. Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole sent a letter to district attorneys saying, "... Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law ... Those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financial laws ..."

It's unknown if that's the reason why credit card machines are being pulled.

The dispensary owner says as a result she had to spend several thousand dollars to install an ATM machine in her dispensary.

"It's a huge inconvenience to my patients," the woman said.

Lipscombe says it isn't fair, especially because he's on a fixed income.

"I am insulted, I am angry, very angry," Lipscombe said.

Dispensaries having this problem are also concerned they'll be more of a target for thieves because of all the cash inside their establishment.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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