If you’re the kind of shopper who prefers to get in, get what you’re looking for, and get out, vending machines are a godsend. Sure, a Redbox will never be able to deliver the same experience that wandering around a Blockbuster once brought (R.I.P. video rental stores). But they’re a heck of a lot more efficient.
And along with all the other crazy things you can buy out of vending machines, you can also use them to buy weed.
A startup called Anna has started putting its tricked-out vending machines in Colorado dispensaries, beginning with Strawberry Fields in Pueblo and Starbuds in Aurora in mid-August. You still have to go to the dispensary and go inside, but — assuming you know what you want — you can skip the lines, and interacting with a budtender, and make your purchase directly from the machine. According to CNN, they’re currently being used to vend edibles, infused beverages, flower, balms, and vape oils, so you’re pretty much set regardless of your cannabis consumption preferences. Apparently, they can hold more than 2,000 products.
“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,” Anna CEO Matt Frost told the Denver Post’s The Know. “With COVID and social distancing and contactless, definitely we have an appeal there, as well.”
Frost said he originally developed the idea of applying self-checkout systems to weed in Massachusetts, his home state, where dispensary waits can last for hours — and that was before the COVID-19 epidemic complicated everything and sent everyone searching for ganja.
According to The Know, customers navigate the machines using a 27-inch touch screen, allowing them to fill their digital shopping basket with items from the menu. They can then pay with cash or a debit card, which further eases the purchasing process if you’re used to needing to stop by an ATM anyway before approaching a dispensary counter.
Anna is currently developing a mobile app that customers will be able to use to pre-order products that they will then be able to simply pick up at the machine. The company is also looking into adapting the machines to sell CBD products potentially anywhere, as they would not need to be placed inside a dispensary.
For now, we’re just interested to see if this automated budtender technology will make it west of the Front Range.