Until recently, the idea of a A vending machine dispensing OG Kush like a can of Coke was the kind of thing you could dream of after too many puffs.
Now, thanks to American Green, it’s real.
If the name of the company sounds familiar, it might be because American Green was in the news last month for buying the town of Nipton, California, for $5 million with a view to turning it into a marijuana tourist destination of sorts. American Green has often taken bold moves in the cannabis sector. It’s currently the largest publicly traded cannabis company in the US, and its latest vending effort isn’t its first foray into the market either.
In 2015, the company unveiled ZaZZZ, a predecessor to its current line of vending machines. Former American Green president and current business advisor Stephan Shearin is blunt in his assessment of where ZaZZZ has gone wrong.
“It was an abject failure, frankly,” he says. “They say experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want, and we have a lot of experience, believe me.”
As Shearin sees it, there were three main reasons why ZaZZZ didn’t last long. One was that with the cannabis industry still in a more nascent form, patients were eager to talk to budtenders and not trust a machine to help them decide what to buy. Another was that the now ubiquitous presence of smartphones in everyday life was still taking hold in 2015, meaning some customers were wary of interacting with the touchscreen that serves as the vending machine’s primary interface. Finally, ZaZZZ models were one-size-fits-all, which meant that many of the pharmacies in remote locations or slightly dilapidated buildings faced logistical difficulties when installing the units.
In their new incarnation, these automata seem ripe with possibilities. During a demonstration earlier this year at the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo in Oakland, the units on display gathered many curious industry insiders. The question, of course, is how do you make sure an automated unit doesn’t dispense cannabis (or alcohol or firearms — any products American Green says its vending machines are built for) to the wrong person?
The answer is biometrics – especially vein reading.
“It’s military-grade technology,” said Mike Rosati, American Green’s director of marketing. It’s what they use to reach the bases abroad.”
Indeed, the company responsible for the vending machine technology is M2SYS, one of the major suppliers of biometrics to the US military. But before American Green settled on a vein reader, which reads a person’s infrared biometric signature, they looked to other available technologies, such as facial recognition software.
“It’s very effective,” Sherain says, “but it’s sometimes challenged by low light, and it can produce false negatives in some situations — like, if you have identical twins and one of them is a felony banned from having sex.” buy what’s in the machine.”
Shearin also offers slightly less fantastic examples, such as a customer who has shaved or grown a beard, or someone who wears glasses instead of contact lenses.
American Green’s reasons for rejecting biometric fingerprinting ran across the same countries. Not only are the false positives and negatives much higher with fingerprint technology, but the more practical problems of what happens when some people cut their finger and so on were many.
In the end, it was decided that vein reading technology was the right choice. Almost sensing the inevitable question, Shearin says any visions of a dark scenario where someone tries to use an amputated finger to access a machine are groundless.
“It stops working when, for whatever reason, blood stops flowing through your veins, so it’s not suitable for situations where a finger is mishandled.”
The new machines — there are currently models in Anchorage, Las Vegas, Phoenix and the Bay Area — offer other bells and whistles, too.
For example, there is the possibility for a pharmacy to link up with a grower or product manufacturer to advertise on the large screen of the machine when it is not actively working.
“The feedback has been positive in that regard,” Rosati says of the advertising potential. “Not only could there be advertisements for the different brands and products that are carried in the pharmacy, but for each product – let’s say they pick a certain kind of flower – they could have a personality at the pharmacy or even the farmer.” who grew it.a short 20 or 30 second video that only talks about the highlights as a way to further promote it.
Pushing the idea even further, Shearin suggests that if San Francisco hypothetically installed 200 machines in the city, an outside company could seamlessly place an ad on the feed of all units at once. It’s not hard to imagine an organization like Outside Lands promoting its annual music festival in Golden Gate Park for patients who probably love music as much as they love weed. To target a demographic that has hitherto been inaccessible collectively, many companies would have to salivate.
Until that day comes, Shearin is content to promote the simple truth of what he calls “our McDonald’s drive-through society.” These machines are handy and nobody likes convenience as much as cannabis users.
“It’s quite remarkable. Now I can stick my finger in it and this machine welcomes me back faster than I take my ID out of my wallet and ask me what my birthday is.”