Customers can now purchase marijuana in vending machines, limiting social contact during the pandemic.
Colorado has been a frontrunner in the legal cannabis industry since the beginning of its push, and now, the state is offering yet another first – weed vending machines. These initially came to Eagle-Vail in 2014, equipped with cameras to check customer IDs. Then, the Zazz machine was produced by American Green and installed in a dispensary in Avon, Colorado. However, vending options were kept mostly under wraps until a Boston, Massachusetts, based startup called Anna, a play on the word “analytics,” entered the spotlight, pushing for contactless checkout during the coronavirus.
Anna has started to make high-tech, self-checkout cannabis kiosks available which can hold up to 2,000 products, including cannabis flower, edibles, infused beverages, balms and vape oils, and are easy to use for the shopper who knows what they want and wants to avoid long lines. The wide selection is currently available at select Colorado dispensaries.
Matt Frost, the founder and CEO Anna said each machine is designed for “experienced cannabis customers who don’t necessarily need that one-on-one interaction with a budtender.” This makes the invention appealing during the pandemic. It not only helps customers, but it allows dispensaries to stay open while offering a safe checkout option with little person-to-person interaction. Customers need only check in with a representative in person first to provide photo ID.
It’s about getting customers through faster with less contact,” Frost said. “A self-checkout solution does lend itself well to these times. There’s a bigger appetite for what we’re doing now.”
The Strawberry Fields dispensary is one location that has installed four pot vending machines at its Pueblo store. “Customers browse their favorite cannabis products, add to their bag, and request checkout,” according to the dispensary’s website. There are also plans to install a machine at the Starbuds dispensary in Aurora in the coming weeks.
“Anna is debuting at two dispensaries in Colorado with plans to expand within the state and to other legal cannabis locales in the coming months,” confirmed Frost, who added, “CBD-only machines are in development as well.”
Next up is Massachusetts, where Anna plans to debut its machines in September. An estimated 10,000 Massachusetts cannabis dispensary workers recently appealed to the National Labor Relations Board to authorize a mail-in election to unionize over growing concerns of being in close contact with others during COVID-19 – perfect timing for the installation.
By the time fiscal 2020 ended in June, Massachusetts had realized $122 million in tax revenue that had been collected in the first two fiscal years of recreational cannabis sales. Records show spending from the fund in fiscal 2019 and 2020 totaled $78.8 million with the majority of the spending (53.8 million) allocated to the state Division of Alcoholism Administration and $20.7 million to pay for the Cannabis Control Commission.
The legal cannabis industry is a newly regulated market that can offer local communities jobs with strong wages and benefits that can’t be outsourced,” United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union said. “Jobs that pay better wages and provide better benefits – like the ones we represent – are vital to keeping our economy afloat and families out of poverty.”