Vending machines are nothing new in developed nations, as they're used around the world to sell a variety of items including drinks, snacks, electronics, and personal toiletries. However, a new type of vending machine has emerged in recent years that dispenses marijuana products to customers who are legally allowed to buy the herb for medical and recreational purposes, much to the delight of cannabis users across North America.
The first marijuana vending machine appeared in 2014 at B.C. Pain Society, a dispensary in Vancouver, Canada. Later that year, marijuana vending machines started popping up in dispensaries throughout Colorado, but they only offered individually wrapped cannabis-infused edibles. It was in February of 2015 that a marijuana vending machine offering cannabis flowers debuted at a dispensary in Seattle, Washington.
Marijuana vending machines operate by scanning a customer's medical marijuana ID card or driver's license to verify that he or she is of legal age and allowed to buy cannabis. The most modern machines have touchscreens, offer extensive information about the products, and even let customers play video games. For example, a marijuana vending machine called ZaZZZ was released by American Green in 2015, and it features a glass-less, climate-controlled design that aims to speed up the purchase time for regular customers who know what they want.
We must point out that since cannabis is still illegal at a federal level in the U.S., marijuana vending machines operate in a legal gray area. Manufacturing them outside of places like Colorado and Washington poses obstacles, since the cannabis products that fill them can't cross state lines, and currently vending machines only accept cash and bitcoin as payment because the United States government won't let allow the purchase of cannabis products with a debit or credit card. Therefore, you won't find marijuana vending machines in every dispensary, and you can't find them anywhere else. Yet.
As cannabis prohibition wanes, the future of marijuana vending machines is bright as prototypes that dispense flowers, edibles, concentrates, joints, pipes, and other supplies and accessories are in the works. Manufacturers of marijuana vending machines hope to incorporate even better safety features, like a fingerprint or biometric identification and smartphone technologies.