In an era when consumers can buy groceries, pet supplies and even a life-size cardboard cutout of Lizzo without directly seeing a human, one company is ensuring Coloradans can also purchase their cannabis contactless.
Matt Frost is founder and CEO of Anna, what he calls a “tricked out vending machine” designed to take and fill orders for marijuana products. The first ones landed at Strawberry Fields dispensary in central Pueblo, where customers can now purchase flower, edibles and vape oils without having to interact with a budtender. They’ll debut at a second dispensary, Starbuds in Aurora, sometime this year.
Frost, whose background is in healthcare data analytics, originally developed the concept to adapt the efficiency of a retail self-checkout system to the marijuana industry. In his home state of Massachusetts, dispensary waits can be hours-long and some shops require patrons schedule a pickup time for pre-ordered products.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic forced pot shops to adapt to increased demand for online ordering and curbside pickup, Frost saw an opportunity to help them modernize and get in on the contactless craze.
“There are experienced cannabis customers who don’t necessarily need that one-on-one interaction with a budtender. They know what they want before they walk in, they’re ready to go in and out. By doing this we’re giving more time back to the people who do need hand holding and want that education from a live person,” Frost said. “With COVID and social distancing and contactless, definitely we have an appeal there, as well.”
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Anna set up four vending machines inside Strawberry Fields, so customers still need to show identification and check in to use them. Each one displays a digital version of the menu on a 27-inch touch screen where patrons can fill their virtual basket and pay with cash or a debit card. Anna then dispenses the items, offering a grab-and-go experience.
Customers can also pre-order using the Anna app and then quickly check out using the machine.
You likely won’t find any snacks in these vending machines — just weed, Frost said, at least for now. In addition to a Colorado expansion and Massachusetts market debut, he is also eyeing the CBD market and hopes to put Anna machines selling non-psychoactive cannabis products in gas stations and retail stores in the near future.
“The partnership that we’re about to strike I have to keep under wraps for now, but [it’s] a very significant CBD distribution opportunity that we’re excited about,” Frost said. “I think you’ll be seeing this rollout absolutely in the fall.”
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