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Weed shops switch to cash after cashless ATM crackdown

The Seattle Times

Marijuana shops across the U.S. are rushing to find alternative ways for customers to pay after networks that supported a popular workaround to the banking system began to shut down last week.

Cashless ATMs, also called “point of banking” systems, allowed cannabis buyers to use a bank card instead of cash. The method had evolved to get around the fact that credit card companies and banks don’t want to be involved in marijuana transactions because the drug is federally illegal. 

But such technology made pot purchases look like ATM withdrawals coming from different addresses, such as a neighboring McDonald’s, as Bloomberg reported in April. At that time, such transactions looked likely to move about $7 billion past the usual money-laundering controls of the banking system this year — or about a quarter of all U.S. cannabis sales.

Now the system is faltering because some of the largest processors of ATM transactions, such as NCR’s Columbus Data Services, have turned off the ability of processors to use their service, according to three people familiar with the issue, who asked not to be named discussing private information. NCR declined to comment.