COVID-19 Ushering in Automated Future for Retail Pot – Westword

The future of marijuana retail could hold more automation and shorter wait times as Colorado marijuana retailers change their business models during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Green Solution, one of the state’s largest dispensary chains, has installed self-service kiosks in the lobbies of all 21 of its retail stores. Meanwhile, Boston-based Anna offers self-service marijuana purchasing lockers that operate similar to vending machines; those are currently featured at stores owned by Starbuds and Strawberry Fields dispensaries.

Technology enabling fast, self-service marijuana sales was actually being developed before the pandemic, but the minimal-contact vending machines and self-serve kiosks are becoming more popular in Colorado dispensaries as social distancing continues. Both options limit the amount of time spent by customers in the dispensary, minimize person-to-person contact and allow for faster customer turnover rates.

“We have clients who have really enjoyed the convenience and feel like it’s created a level of safety for them,” says Green Solution CEO Steve Lopez, adding that he plans to keep kiosks in the Green Solution locations after the pandemic, for buyer convenience.

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Colorado marijuana regulations mandate that dispensaries keep their products for sale behind a partition so that people can’t grab items and throw them down at the cash register, and that can lead to long lines at the pot shop. The Green Solution’s kiosks serve as an electronic ordering and payment station, with customers picking up their orders at nearby express windows. Anna is more of a vending unit, allowing shoppers to order, pay and pick up products from the stocked machines. Both machines require that an employee verify customer IDs, to comply with state law.

Self-service retail is one of several new purchasing procedures implemented during the pandemic. Others include online pre-ordering, as well as curbside and to-go pickup options, all

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