Hawai'i Unveils First Cashless Medical Cannabis System in the Nation

Sep 12, 2017

Medical cannabis patient, Eliza Sprague, commends the new cashless transaction system as state financial institutions commissioner, Iris Ikeda (left) and Governor David Ige, look on.
Credit Wayne Yoshioka

Hawai’i is the first state in the nation that plans to implement a cashless payment system for medical cannabis or marijuana. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.

Governor David Ige announced a banking solution that will allow Hawai’i’s medical cannabis dispensaries to make financial transactions without exchanging cash. 

“Cannabis is illegal at the federal level, still a schedule one controlled substance.  Because of this, all financial institutions in Hawai’i have decided against providing banking services to the dispensaries.  This solution allows the dispensaries to be able to write checks, to do all of the normal financial transactions that most businesses would do.”

Iris Ikeda, the State’s Financial Institutions Commissioner,has been working for two years to solve the problems facing the cash-based medical cannabis industry.

“I found a Colorado credit union that was willing to open up these medical cannabis accounts to help with the public safety aspect.  I can report that these accounts have been opened and so, for those dispensaries that were able to pass through the due diligence that’s required in order to open these accounts.”

The cashless system can be used by dispensaries for payroll, utilities and tax payments.   Tai Cheng is the chief operating officer for Aloha Green Holdings, one of two dispensaries currently operating in the state.

“Our Department of Tax GET is coming due soon.  And so, initially, we had to hire our own personal armored cars to move cash from one location to another but now we don’t have to do that.  We just have to write a check and send it out in the mail.  It helps bring down the cost a little bit.  We hope by the end of the year we’ll have a hundred percent cashless system implemented for all the dispensaries here in Hawaii.”

It will also help medical cannabis patients like Eliza Sprague who has a long list of ailments including arthritis in both knees and ankles and painful spinal issues.

“I do prefer the ointments and the soaking salts that I get.  So, my first transaction was 70 bucks and then, this time, I forgot to pull out cash from my card so I asked them, do you guys take debit card or something.  And they say ‘no’ but we do have this app.  So I downloaded it right away, logged in, signed up and then I was on my way.”

The cashless system is scheduled to be implemented October 1st .  Governor Ige says as the medical cannabis industry develops the most urgent concerns are being addressed up front and it’s a win-win-win for all parties.

“In most other states it’s a cash-based system that dispensaries become targets of criminals.  Having banking services allows us to protect the patients, the employees of the dispensary, the employees of the state as well as the overall community.”

For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.