Are cannabis vending machines more than just a fad?
Some believe marijuana spurs creativity. The cannabis industry is indeed becoming a place for that creativity to manifest to its fullest. Each day, new types of cannabis-related products spring to life in the industry - some great, some bewildering, and others born dead on delivery. So, which of these classes do cannabis vending machines belong?
Cannabis vending machines are designed to crunch down the time spent on long queues that are common in cannabis dispensaries. These cannabis convenience machines come with intuitive user interfaces that provide users with comprehensive options regarding products and pricing.
KindPeoples, a California dispensary, ventured onto the pot machine business. Source
They're often couched inside a tough vending cage fortified with locks. They also feature authentication technologies that require valid fingerprints or ID cards to give users access. They're designed to keep accurate records of daily transactions. Also, they're normally placed in areas with constant CCTV surveillance, so security is obviously of great concern.
However, there are many cannabis vending machine initiatives that have gone awry. These plans failed to pan out as anticipated because the vending machines turned out to be unreliable, fraught with various technical glitches.
Analyzing some of the pros and cons of cannabis vending machines can help determine whether or not it's a safe utility that's here to stay and serve needs.
The pros of cannabis vending machines
- Easy access to a wide variety of products, from nugs to edibles, vaporizers, and oils.
- Great for selling products that can be consumed on-site in places where dispensaries aren’t feasible but where on-site consumption is legal, such as at cannabis festivals.
- Great for customers who prefer to buy cannabis more discreetly, since they eliminate the need to interact with anyone at a point of sale.
- Around-the-clock service that allows users, especially medical marijuana patients, to easily obtain their cannabis treats at any point in time.
- Prevents sales to under-aged customers, since it verifies users’ identity either through IDs, fingerprints, or other standard means of identification.
Cannabis vending machines give users access to a vast array of products as well as info concerning the products. Source
The cons of cannabis vending machines
In the wake of the legalization of adult-use in California, KindPeople dispensary in Santa Cruz, like most other licensed dispensaries across the state, was swamped with eager customers. With the number of potential daily buyers exceeding 600 on a daily basis, many customers would walk away at the sight of long-winding queues. The dispensary decided it was high time to deploy a vending machine that would avoid losing such customers.
However, after installing the machine in April, the dispensary took it down the following July. The dispensary found that the machine had several unforeseen issues that were similar to many cases where traditional vending machine initiatives have failed. These drawbacks include:
- Enormous maintenance needs, from inventory stocks to checks on the change processing system.
- Since most dispensaries do not have access to banking facilities, vendor machines operate based on cash, and change processing has been one of the most problematic aspects of cannabis vending machines.
- Various glitches in the software used in the technology.
The verdict: Are cannabis vending machines a safe bet?
Unfortunately for KindPeople and other dispensaries that suffered false starts in trying to introduce a pot machine, the models they deployed required several software upgrades and failed to serve customers at the point of their needs. In KindPeople's case, nearly 95 percent of customers stayed away from the machine. Nonetheless, the company believes that with the right software and design, cannabis vending machines can reach their full potentials, just like convenience machines used for many other consumer products.
Pot machines are a great idea, but great ideas aren’t always practical. Today, that seems to be the case with cannabis vending machines - albeit its numerous advantages for business owners, its drawbacks seem to counter its positives. Perhaps the most significant drawback is change processing, which can quickly lead to customer dissatisfaction when that goes awry.
Also, cannabis products are not the cheap convenience products that are usually subject to vending machines. Where a traditional vending machine spews out low cost soft drinks and snacks, pot machines contain expensive cannabis products. Imagine feeding the machine $100 for a cannabis purchase and it refuses to serve you - chances are that your reaction would be a lot more animated than if you lost a couple bucks on a failed attempt to retrieve some snacks from a traditional vending machine.
The high costs of the items in a pot machine also presents the problem of security, which causes the business owner to invest a significant amount of funds keeping the machine safe from vandalism and its contents safe from theft. All the drawbacks associated with marijuana pot machines, albeit minimal in numbers, are too significant to consider the idea to be a practical endeavor.