Posted on

Those who follow marijuana markets have probably heard about CanPay, billed as the first true debit solution for cannabusinesses. Like many, we were excited to learn that we might soon get to go directly to the dispensary without a detour at the ATM. We decided to take the service for a spin.

The basic idea of the service is simple: register on the CanPay website, download the app, go to your favorite dispensary, pay directly from your bank account with no processing fees by allowing the retailer to scan the QR code on your phone. After speaking with CanPay representatives, we’re hopeful that this will soon be a reality for Oregon consumers, but CanPay is still working towards finalizing a tie-up with an in-state banking institution.

The setup process is easy – you’ll need your driver’s license number, checking account number, and routing number – but the app can’t be downloaded through the Android or Apple app stores. Instead, users access the applet – essentially a webform – through a link on the company website. We imagine this has to do with app store restrictions on marijuana related apps, but we’d like to see a more built-out app with Leafly integration. And for those of you, like us, who live in the 21st century and haven’t written a check in the past decade, despite what CanPay tells you, you don’t need one handy to find out your routing number: google is faster.

The bigger challenge for us was that although CanPay is advertizing that it’s active in Oregon, it doesn’t actually have an agreement signed with any Oregon banks. This means that when we clicked on the store-finder in our app, we learned that we’d have to travel to Washington in order to use CanPay. Although enforcement is non-existent, Oregon users should remember that bringing any product across state lines continues to be a felony

We were frustrated by the relative lack of information on CanPay’s website. An instructional video describes the user process, but doesn’t spell out the technical or legal underpinnings that allow the service to work. Given the legal grey-area surrounding marijuana payment systems, CanPay could do a lot more to ensure that customers are comfortable when they share account information. CanPay releases customer information to ZipLine, a company that manages some of their backend operations and customer services. After speaking with three employees, leaving a voicemail, and an email exchange with the CanPay public relations head, we still weren’t able to get a clear answer on what role that company plays.

Much to the CanPay’s credit, we did receive a prompt callback when we left a message on their website. A CanPay representative told us that services will soon be operating in Oregon, but was unable to provide an exact timeline. He also promised to get back to us with information on the relationship between ZipLine and CanPay.

More importantly, we can report that the system works like a breeze. Although the map integration on the applet is sub-standard, once you get into a dispensary, everything operates exactly as advertized. We tried CanPay out at Vancouver’s Herbery, the only dispensary in the Portland area currently offering the service. The budtender had never used the system before, but it’s intuitive interface made for quick processing with no snags.

We’ll follow up with CanPay once the service is unveiled in Oregon.