One Colorado dispensary welcomed the state’s first marijuana vending machines last week, a practical solution for customers looking to minimize contact with other people during the coronavirus pandemic.
The AI-powered weed vending machines can hold up to 2,000 products, including flower, edibles, cannabis-infused beverages, and vape oils. Inspired by “the efficiency of a retail self-checkout system,” the vending machines are manufactured by Massachusetts-based start-up anna.
“Despite being born in the age of technology, the legal cannabis industry has ignored retail trends. After spending millions on square footage like its big box retail predecessors, we’re unfortunately seeing downsizing and halts on expansion plans by MSOs. The result? Long lines and less customer service,” anna’s website explains the philosophy behind the brand.
The four vending machines, currently up and running in the Strawberry Fields dispensary in Pueblo, are located inside the dispensary, meaning customers still need identification in order to purchase product.
Each fully-contactless machine features the dispensary’s menu and a 27-inch touch screen, while customers can pay in either cash or with a debit card. Those who install the anna app can also pre-order products ahead of their arrival at the dispensary.
The Starbuds dispensary in Southeast Aurora is next in line to set up the vending machines, while the company announced a September 2020 launch in Massachusetts. Anna plans on expanding to markets in Nevada, California and Canada sometime next year.
Aside from cutting down wait times at dispensaries for experienced customers, anna CEO Matt Frost also believes the vending machines will help less-informed users get more one-on-one time with budtenders.
“There are experienced cannabis customers who don’t necessarily need that one-on-one interaction with a budtender. They know what they want before they walk in, they’re ready to go in and out. By doing this we’re giving more time back to the people who do need hand holding and want that education from a live person,” Frost told The Denver Post.
The current public health crisis will also certainly add to the appeal of anna’s kiosks, he added.
Marijuana dispensaries were declared essential businesses by Colorado Governor Jared Polis in March, which enabled pot businesses to remain open during the COVID-19 shutdowns in the state.
Dispensaries were also given the option to offer online ordering, curbside pickups, and delivery. The decision to allow dispensaries to continue working during the pandemic resulted in record pot sales in Colorado – with recreational sales topping $150 million in June.