SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – Bay Area medical marijuana dispensaries claim they are being cut off from allowing credit card transactions. Pot advocates said cash-only dispensaries and their customers may become vulnerable to criminals.

Juliette Spirson stopped by her bank before going to her dispensary, The Vapor Room in San Francisco.

“It’s really just a hassle,” Spirson said.

The Vapor Room claimed it was forced to go cash-only this week. On the club’s Facebook page, a statement read, “Due to increasing Federal pressure, Visa and MasterCard are now refusing to accept your credit card charges.”

“No other business that I’m aware of in California is effectively forced to be cash-only against their will,” said Joe Elford of Americans for Safe Access, which supports medical marijuana.

Last October, California’s four regional U.S. attorneys announced a crackdown on the medical marijuana industry. It is unclear if the feds are involved in the cutoff, but Americans for Safe Access believe it’s the work of the government.

“It’s our view that the federal government is putting pressure on whether it’s direct or indirect,” Elford said.

Visa did not return calls from CBS 5 asking for comment.

There are ways around the cash-only conundrum. Some dispensaries are reportedly installing ATM machines. Others are card-swiping through the Square electronic payment service under another company’s name.

But pot advocates said that doesn’t address the problem of dispensaries and their cash-carrying customers becoming targets for thieves.

“By forcing these dispensaries to have to deal in potentially fairly large sums of cash, it just creates a danger that’s completely unnecessary,” Elford said.

Still, customers said if the goal is to put marijuana dispensaries out of business, it won’t work.

“I’m still gonna go,” Spirson said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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