Last week, Columbia Care announced that it will offer qualified cannabis purchasers the option of obtaining and using a credit card at its dispensaries. This marks the first credit card of its kind in the United States cannabis industry.

Because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, most banking institutions will not provide banking services, including offering or accepting credit cards, for marijuana dispensaries. As a result, marijuana sales have traditionally been made using cash, although some dispensaries have systems that can accept debit or ATM cards. Columbia Care rolled out the credit card pilot program in New York in the second half of 2018, and has now expanded it to Delaware and Pennsylvania locations. The credit card should be available in all 12 states where Columbia Care operates by the end of 2019, including Illinois.

Making a credit card available to purchasers appears to be paying off. Based on its pilot program in New York, Columbia Care states that the average basket size for in-stores purchases paid with a credit card was 18% higher than other forms of payment. For now, the card—called the Columbia National Credit Card or “CNC Card”—will be exclusive to Columbia Care dispensaries, but the company announced it was evaluating opportunities to partner with others in the cannabis industry.

We are still optimistic that the SAFE Banking Act will eventually pass, which would provide marijuana purchasers with more purchasing options. Unless and until that happens, however, the CNC Card is a welcome and exciting alternative to cash transactions.