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As Delaware Legalizes Medical Marijuana, Amex Just Says No

On Friday, Democratic Governor Jack Markell signed a bill making Delaware the 16th state to legalize medical marijuana for adults with certain chronic illnesses like cancer, multiple sclerosis and HIV/AIDS. However, American Express is holding firm on its policy introduced earlier this month to ban purchases of the weed even in where state law permits it.


Bradley R. Minor, an American Express spokesman, tells Pay Dirt, “American Express has made a decision to not allow card acceptance for medical marijuana. It is our policy to adhere to the federal law in such matters.” Visa and Discover Card say they allow the purchase of medical marijuana in states that have legislated in favor of it. (MasterCard was unavailable for comment.)

The dilemma faced by credit card companies: there is a discrepancy between federal and an increasing number of state laws on the issue. Marijuana is illegal for any use under federal law. The Controlled Substances Act classifies cannabis as a “Schedule 1” drug, meaning it has no accepted medical use. It’s also illegal to ship or receive marijuana by mail under federal law.

Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the non-profit Marijuana Policy Project, which was instrumental in getting the Delaware law passed, says marijuana can be hugely beneficial, especially to alleviate pain. “It’s really kind of sad and ridiculous for American Express to close off such a huge market,” he says. “It gives people with serious illnesses one more hurdle to get medical marijuana.”

Who do you agree with – Visa or American Express?


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  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.