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Many experts claimed that cannabis vending machines would eventually lead the game in the legal marijuana business. As part of the distribution system of the cannabis market, such devices, indeed, have the potential to transform the industry.
Cannabis vending machines are not a novelty, despite a few failures. Today, new actors are entering the market like Company Frost, which has released a patent to market a cannabis vending machine named Anna.
Let’s go through a brief history of cannabis vending machines and examine how Anna can make a change in the business.
Why Vending Machines Could Transform the Cannabis Industry
Cannabis proponents have touted cannabis vending machines as a real game-changer for the business. Not only could cannabis dispensing be more convenient and easy to reach more consumers with such devices — similar to a traditional vending machine selling food or drinks — which was the purpose of American Green with ZaZZZ — but could also change the face of marijuana retail.
Boosting Marijuana Retail
As a pioneering state in marijuana legislation, the state of Colorado was the first ever to introduce a marijuana vending machine that sold only edibles, in 2014. Followed Seattle, with the ZaZZZ offering flower buds that could be ordered by patients for therapeutic purposes. With a medical marijuana card and a driver’s license, users could complete their purchase upon authentication and data check.
But unlike traditional vending machines, these cannabis providers are located inside medical dispensaries where users can check in with their ID through an employee. Furthermore, these machines can only be accessed at certain times during the dispensaries opening hours.
Providing Customers with Outstanding Technology and Cannabis Products
Other attempts at providing cannabis vending machines earlier were noticed, with Metbox in 2013, which eventually failed, after promoting the need to remove any employee from the process, to benefit companies.
More recently, in 2017, Greenbox Robotics launched a state-the-art cannabis kiosk in California. Bringing customers with touch-screen legal weed kiosk, Greenbox Robotics focused on a faster transaction experience of cannabis products. The company has also partnered with local dispensaries in Los Angeles, who control the shelf life, and operates on five verticals: cannabis flower, edibles, extracts, CBD products, and cannabis accessories. In 2018, Grasshopper kiosks were introduced as the next compliant and advanced-technology automated kiosks in the USA.
As of today, we can see the desire of cannabis retailers to automate and provide efficiency to both consumers and manufacturers. But the difficulty remains that cannabis is legal in some states but not under federal law. There’s a need to streamline and ease the distribution of cannabis products through vending machines while staying compliant with the state laws.
How Vending Machine Anna Leads the Game
[Editors Note: As of 2023, Anna is no longer in business]
Company Frost has issued a patent for a new machine that could streamline and execute the operation while being legally compliant. How so?
Imagined by the visionary Matthew Frost in 2017, Anna is designed to remove all hassles faced by the previous vending machines, while providing dispensaries and customers with state-of-the-art technology to rationalize the vending machine distribution process.
Anna comes equipped with an app where customers can pre-order their desired cannabis products and can handle 56 SKUs—anything from vape cartridges, concentrates, and packages of flower to edibles, drinks, and balms. But the difference with other machines is that an employee can validate the transaction and release the products to the customer after verifying that these transactions are within purchase limits, making it legal in the eyes of most states since customers don’t serve themselves.
Furthermore, with machine learning integration and in-depth analytics, Anna could track customer purchases and generate recommendations upon the return of the customers. It could also enable retailers to predict more accurately customer’s demand and affect supply chain management positively. With strong analytics and a solid business model that can ease the automation and distribution of cannabis products through the new generation of vending machines, Anna could genuinely become a game-changer in the industry.
What the Future Holds for Cannabis Vending Machines
Anna spent 2018 in the Canopy Boulder cannabis business incubator, and in early 2019, Frost planned pilot programs with LivWell Enlightened Health in Colorado and Reef Dispensaries in Nevada, before going to market later this year.
Cannabis vending machines can incorporate the best of AI and analytics to predict customer demands and boost customer retention, which can lead to better supply chain management and enable both retailers and suppliers to provide the best products while being state-law compliant. The case of Anna proves that we are just a little step away from getting there.