With the touch of a button, CBD buyers in the Miami suburb of Doral, Florida can now have their hemp-based products automatically dispensed into their hands.
The Wellness Pantry, developed by cannabis tech firm Cultiva, allows people who download a free app from the company on their mobile phones to buy CBD remotely and pick up the products from a machine similar to one that sells soda and chips.
The machine features remote monitoring and operation, touchless payments and the use of blockchain technology to verify customers’ age, according to the Cultiva’s CEO. Unlike marijuana vending machines, which state laws restrict to operating solely inside dispensaries, CBD machines like the Wellness Pantry can operate from just about anywhere – including inside non-cannabis businesses and even housing complexes.
“We’re giving whole communities access to quality products in a fun, interactive, safe and simple experience,” said Cultiva founder and CEO Daniel Torres.
The first Wellness Pantry was became operational this weekend inside a condominium complex owned by NFC Amenity Management, one of the largest amenity management companies in the country.
The Cultiva Wellness Pantry isn’t the first cannabis vending machine to launch in the U.S., but it’s certainly among the most state of the art. Last October, the Anna vending machine also debuted in the Colorado-based dispensaries of retail chain Star Buds. That followed the release of California-based GreenStop machines, which featured different four touch screens allowing multiple customers to order at once.
At least two other companies have launched more traditional-style vending machines in which customers can select products by inserting cash and pressing a two-button code.
CBD and cannabis vending machines, when inside licensed cannabis stores, theoretically help store owners move customers in and out quicker and reduce patient waiting times. The vending machines can also serve as points of sale in rural areas or remote towns that can’t support full-fledged stores.
Yet the automated service still faces a host of challenges before becoming a staple part of the cannabis landscape. Besides the obvious technical challenges involving a machine’s ability to accurate integrate with stores’ point-of-sale systems, many states have regulations that mandate human oversight of cannabis purchases. Nevada and Michigan are among at least 20 U.S. states with laws requiring people to have a receipt for their cannabis purchase issued and reviewed by a store employee.
The machines offer a limited selection compared to a full store, and the machines can cost up to $25,000 each.
While industry consultants believe it could be years before vending machines become commonplace at dispensaries and CBD stores across the U.S., Torres says the machines are not designed to fully replace budtenders.
“You’ll always have customers who want to come into the store talk about a product before buying it,” he said. “Having the machines around will just enhance the experience for customers who prefer to go that route.”