Soft drink vending machines, ubiquitous. Candy bar and snack machines, everywhere. Cannabis machines? They’re not exactly familiar sights at retailers, but many companies are working on it with early success.
Right now, Colorado — America’s first state to approve recreational cannabis — is ground zero for deploying and testing machines. California is right behind. Other states may also enter the mix at a later date, but machine manufacturers are most comfortable with the climate out west.
The idea, of course, is to streamline the customer’s experience at retail dispensaries — and allow companies to serve smaller communities where a brick-and-mortar dispensary is not practical. These refrigerator-sized machines themselves are being built with secure technology that performs the same steps as human budtenders would: age and identity verification, fingerprint readers and/or biometric scanners, cash and credit card handling functions, and integration with both the dispensary’s point of sale system and the state’s track and trace system.
One such vending machine, Anna (wordplay on “analytics”), is currently serving customers at Colorado dispensaries with a large selection of products: lower, edibles, beverages, balms and vape oils. Anna machines are configured to have a supervising budtender approve orders before products are dispensed. Anna’s Boston-based manufacturer is looking to launch machines in California, Nevada, Oregon and Massachusetts in the coming year.
Other vending machine manufacturers who are stepping to the plate include the made-in-Arizona Smart Vending Kiosks. The California-made Smart Dispensary. And the Greenbox CBD machines from California that feature a robotic arm delivering product selections. A Canadian company is now testing a machine that uses a unique way of identifying users: palm scanning that recognizes the user’s unique subcutaneous vein pattern.
While vending machines give some state regulators pause, the new need for social distancing and reduced human contact has put them into the spotlight. Some manufacturers are also integrating Apple Pay and Android Pay into their machines so consumers can make contactless payments.
However, none of these machines are likely to provide a one-stop shopping experience. Customers may still have to hit the gas station or convenience store for snacks and munchies.