While payments are one of the most commoditized services for just about every other industry, it’s a complex and thorny concern for cannabis dispensaries. Because cannabis is still federally illegal in the United States, institutions like Visa and Mastercard don’t allow cannabis transactions on their rails, forcing payment companies to develop workarounds. 

Each of those workarounds are completely different, forcing dispensary operators to spend significant energy reviewing each solution, and then making a bet on a company they trust. Because a wrong decision means losing transactions, losing customers, and maybe even closing your store for a while.

So, ultimately choosing a payments system is about trust. We asked our readers to tell us who they turn to for their cannabis payment solutions. What we got in response was a group of some of the most non-bullshit, straightforward people we’ve ever collectively met – each with a completely different solution.

CannaTrac – website

“We’re the only complete solution out there not just a mobile wallet, we have a physical card. We’re also a rewards system,” said CannaTrac CEO Tom Gavin. “We function as a reloadable gift card but have more, like a rewards platform, where people can use points. Not just for swag, but also to make purchases and receive discounts for any retailer on our platform.”

CannaTrac has expanded the use of it’s CannaCard far beyond cannabis, Gavin says, with tens of thousands of retail stores using their system and with new big box stores adopting their system regularly. As a result, their payment system provides customers with flexibility and retailers with ubiquity.

“I urge dispensaries to look at – even if they don’t like us – look at cashless payment options. The cost of cash is absurd. Some of the major benefits we bring to the table is by taking that cash out of the system,” said Gavin.

Dama Financial – website

Working as a kind of financial services aggregator and reseller, Dama Financial offers a very different solution than many other cannabis financial services companies. The company provides compliance services for banks, but also, as an agent of the bank, it brings in cannabis companies to those banks and manages those cannabis companies financial services. The result is that Dama is able to offer not only payment services, but also deposits and lending.

“We find FDIC insured banks that make a risk informed decision that they want to bank cannabis. They are small to medium-sized banks, and are not set up to manage high risk industries. They partner with us to run the program on their behalf. We are the compliance program,” says Dama’s Chief Revenue Officer Eric Kaufman. “We walk them through with federal banking investigations. We help with reporting for banks, including the SARs reports [Suspicious Activity Reports]. So, if [a partner bank] wanted to get out of cannabis, that’s not a problem for our customers, you just get a new bank partner.”

Dama Financial can, “offer a bank account, interest earning accounts, bill pay by ACH or wire, armor car cash pick up, a b2b payments platform, and PayTender, which is Venmo meets the Starbucks app,” said Kaufman.

PayQwick – website

PayQuick, started in 2014, is led by CEO Bob Craig, who has decades of experience serving large companies while at Wells Fargo, Fiserve, and Chase Bank. 

“Five years ago, the industry was about, ‘How do I move and digitize my cash?’”; said Craig. “In the last two years, it’s, ‘Now that I can manage the cash at retail, how do I get that into the financial system? I still have a lot of cash that is safer, But how do I grow my business in traditional ways? How do I improve my cash flow, borrow against my cash flow? Raise capital that’s efficient for me relative to my cash flow?’” 

While payment services is PayQwick’s core business, Craig says his company acts as a broader financial services company, assisting with lending and hard cash management. The company also goes beyond dispensaries for it’s cannabis business, working with other companies in the supply chain with large cash transactions.

“The team at PayQwick are experts in cannabis financial services. We understand the harvest cycle, the manufacturing and ancillary businesses that are essential to that cycle. We’re working on a systems perspective with people that are originating large transactions,” said Craig.

Shift Processing – website

Compliance and avoiding chargebacks is the name of the game for Shift Processing, which offers a system that allows use of both debit and credit cards, says Chris Griego, Regional Sales Director for Shift.

“Part of our procedures for our platform is to get a correct phone number. Because as soon as you run that transaction through your POS it sends them a text receipt,” said Griego. “We have companies doing $15 million a month that do one chargeback a month because they follow the correct SOPs. The dispensary that creeps up on that threshold of chargeback ratio, we’ll boot them off the platform. We’re not going to let them ruin it for everybody. And we’ve only had to kick off 8 or 9 companies.”

With over 400 dispensaries signed up with Shift, Griego says the company has a credit card processing solution that’s time-tested and fully compliant. 

“The fact that you’re able to take credit and debit [with Shift] is the big difference. Everybody else has to use some kind of app. You can take any card you want, there is no registration process. You can walk up to the counter, put your product down, they take your card, run it. You’ve got no fear of being shut down with us,” said Griego.

TruHarbor – website

Run almost as a family operation, TruHarbor’s CEO Bill Schroeder met the company’s Chief Operating Officer and Compliance Director Rich and Michele Urso a dozen years ago. All three of them joined in for a call with Grown In to explain their services.

“The realization we came to is that this space is less about making money, because of the plant itself and all the medicinal purposes that it brings to the table,” said Schroeder.

And in the meantime, TruHarbor, with offices in Illinois and Rhode Island, has created a broad suite of services for over 400 plant-touching cannabis businesses.

“We’re a one stop shop,” said Schroeder. “We have everything from cashless ATMs to credit card processing. We also have access to funding for cash against future receipts, that a dispensary would be in need of.”

“And we have a loan department, we can loan funds for dispensaries, have a manager on hand for loan products,” said Rich Urso, chiming in.

TruHarbor will also help a cannabis company get banked, said Michele Urso. “We do [work with] cannabis-friendly banks. And if you don’t have an account, we can help you open one.”


Editor Mike is a co-founder and the editor of Grown In, a U.S. national cannabis industry newsletter and training company. His career has taken him from Capitol Hill to Chicago City Hall, from...