Are weed vending machines the solution to long lines at the pot shop?
To end long waits at the grocery, stores added self-checkout machines.
Lindel Creed believes weed stores could follow a similar path.
Creed is a talkative, friendly, weed-smoking Southerner who works for American Green, which makes vending machines for candy and soda and more. Now, the company is putting significant effort into creating automatic dispensing systems for dispensaries, and Creed says that stoners are going to love the weed vending machines coming their way.
"Machines won't replace [budtenders], but there's a large segment of consumers that want to do self-checkout," Creed said. "You see that at Walmart."
Weed vending machines aren't a brand new idea. They first appeared around 2015, although many stores ditched weed vending machines just as fast as they tried them. Many were glitchy, gave the wrong change, or took as long to re-stock as the time they saved.
Creed swears his machines are ready for prime time now. In fact, a grip of companies — called GreenStop, Greenbox, Grasshopper and more — are busy perfecting the tech, convinced there's a market here. Already, the machines showing up in pot stores around the West.
The weed vending machines are more complicated than Walmart's self-checkout. Creed is marketing a box that verifies your identity by scanning the veins in your finger. In most states, you'd still have to show an ID to enter the weed store, so there will be double verification of age. With all that security, no kid is going to get weed the way kids used to get cigarettes, from that jenky vending machine with the pull levers in the neighborhood bar.
Melissa Westfall is manager of Hempful Farms, and she has Creed's vending machines in her stores in Chico, California, and in Phoenix. Her regular customers pop in, push a few buttons, and out drops some cannabis products.
"They help us when we get a customer that [occupies the budtender's time because they] need a lot of education," Westfall said. "When someone else comes in, they don't always have 20 minutes to wait while we educate a patient."
The machines are pricey — $20,000 is a typical price tag — but the possibilities, these companies say, are sky-high.
At a weed festival, vending machines could churn out joints as fast as stoners could smoke them.
If and when weed becomes more socially acceptable, a vending machine that checks your age could go in a 7-Eleven or a grocery store, available 24/7.
"Nothing against budtenders, they're great, but there are people who are like, I already know what I want, I don't need to stand here and watch you gab with the budtender," Creed said.
"We've come out of the days of kicking the machine because you lost your quarter," Creed said