American Express blocks medical marijuana purchases

American Express blocks medical marijuana purchases

American Express cards may no longer be used to purchase medical marijuana. The company has given no reason for the prohibition. Other credit card companies so far continue to allow their cards to be used for the purchase of medical marijuana where legal.

“I haven’t seen it (the prohibition) with other credit cards,” said Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

“I don’t understand why they would turn their back on a $2 billion industry. It’s perplexing.”

Colorado Rep. Jared Polis has said he will introduce legislation that makes it clear that banks can maintain normal business relationships with legal medical marijuana businesses without fear that they are in violation of any federal laws. His office said the bill will be introduced soon–possibly this week.


So far, American Express has given no reason for the new rule, leaving medical marijuana dispensaries and their customers guessing at possible causes. One theory is that the card issuer has received complaints from companies about their employees using their American Express cards to purchase medical marijuana. American Express may also have received a high number of fraudulent or unauthorized charges from medical marijuana dispensaries due to people using forged or stolen cards to obtain pot.

While legal marijuana may be used for illegal purposes, a lot of sick patients need the drug. Many would argue that American Express’ move is an audacious one, wondering how the company can overrule a practice that 15 states have made legal.

An American Express spokesperson said the change was made because it is the company’s policy to follow federal law.

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About the Author

Scot Kersgaard

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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