Cannabis vending machines—not a new idea but something that has come to the forefront once again during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. Many retail cannabis shops throughout Canada found themselves affected by this forced closure when they were unable to quickly shift their operations to a non- or minimal contact scenario in order to service clients during the crisis. Though cannabis vending machines do exist here and there throughout the country, several retail cannabis shops I spoke to are seriously looking into having at least one installed within their premises as a “backup”.
Mail order marijuana depots and online marijuana dispensaries rely on their customers knowing their product and wanting the convenience of a detached sales experience. Transactions are electronic and goods are delivered to the location specified by the client for a service charge unless a minimum purchase is made. Cannabis vending machines located within retail shops would work in a similar way as transactions would also be electronic, however, goods would be dispensed and available immediately. Though the vast selection one would get when you buy weed online or in a retail shop would not be available at a vending machine, there is no interaction with a live person and no minimum purchase requirement.
This may seem like a viable alternative to ensure the needs of clients are met during another lockdown as these vending machines can be moved outside of a closed retail shop and serviced at that location whenever necessary, however, product selection would be limited and those clients who are unable or reluctant to use electronic payments would still be denied access. To ensure those accessing the vending machines are of legal age, machine manufacturers use a variety of methods to safeguard this—some require users to register online with proper identification before hand and some use facial recognition to verify age.
In the United States cannabis vending machines have greatly decreased the number of people waiting in line at retail cannabis shops as consumers now have the option of making their purchase at a machine. This is ideal for those only wanting to spend a few dollars for a small amount of product—mail order marijuana depots and online marijuana dispensaries are great for those bulk or significant dollar purchases but not so much if you only want enough weed for a few joints.
If you are only looking to spend a few dollars, know what you want to purchase, do not want to wait in line for an hour and were wanting to take your item with you immediately, a cannabis machine may be the answer. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to social distance and to address the implications of another lockdown, retail cannabis shops may find that using vending machines to compete with mail order marijuana websites and online marijuana dispensaries may not come soon enough. With a machine or two and some luck they may be able to continue to service their existing client base as well as made headway with another group of cannabis consumers.