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Cole Memo fallout: Rhode Island medical marijuana stores lose debit card privileges

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Two of Rhode Island’s three medical marijuana dispensaries have lost their ability to accept debit cards after Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week reversed an Obama-era policy not to prosecute marijuana cases in states where the drug is legal.

The Providence Journal reports that Summit Medical Compassion Center in Warwick and Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center in Portsmouth began accepting only cash and checks Tuesday. They do not take credit cards. Both say they’re working on alternative plans.

Both used a payment processing company that worked with a Massachusetts bank that processed medical marijuana transactions.

Dispensaries that relied on Massachusetts banking lost their ability to process debit cards after Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said Monday that he cannot guarantee marijuana operations in his state would be immune from federal prosecution.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said Lelling should instead use his limited resources to focus on the street drugs, in particular the powerful opioid fentanyl.

Rhode Island’s third medical marijuana dispensary, the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center in Providence, does not rely on the same processor and has not been affected.

JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, said that not being able to use debit cards is a “terrible inconvenience,” but medical marijuana patients do not feel particularly threatened by Sessions’ latest move.

She said their general sense is he wouldn’t be able to completely stop the sale of medical marijuana, though he may
be able to slow things down.

Information from: The Providence Journal