Cannabis buds are shown to a customer at a dispensary in Desert Hot Springs, California, on Jan. 1, 2018 – the day recreational marijuana sales became legal in the state. — AFP

Mastercard service to buy cannabis through debit cards might be suspended in the United States as the remittance-processing corporation has asked the country’s payment firms to stop accepting transactions for legal marijuana purchases.

The move, initially reported by Bloomberg, comes as a blow to the cannabis industry, which already resides on the periphery of the US financial system due to the drug’s illegal status on a federal level.

People in the 38 states that allow cannabis purchases are forced to pay in cash only despite the legalisation of its medicinal and recreational use.

Mastercard said it had found some shops accepting debit card transactions on the purchase despite the federal ban.

“As we were made aware of this matter, we quickly investigated it. In accordance with our policies, we instructed the financial institutions that offer payment services to cannabis merchants and connect them to Mastercard to terminate the activity,” a spokesperson for the company said on Wednesday.

“The federal government considers cannabis sales illegal, so these purchases are not allowed on our systems,” the statement continued.

Sunburn Cannabis CEO Brady Cobb criticised Mastercard’s decision, saying, “This move is another blow to the state-legal cannabis industry and patients/consumers who want to access this budding category”.

The Marijuana advocates have called for reforms to ease sales of legal cannabis.

“We will continue to advocate for cannabis reforms in Washington through further dialogue with elected officials and stakeholders to advance conversations supporting the growth of safe, legal cannabis across the US,” Pot firm Verano’s President Darren Weiss said, according to Reuters.

Earlier this month, Republican Senator John Cornyn also termed Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s plan to pass a marijuana banking bill as “wishful thinking”.

The legislation, known as the SAFE Banking Act, is crucial for making the cannabis industry’s access to banking services easier. 

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