If the legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana weren’t already showing signs of the future of the industry in the United States already, another component of progress for the market has come. Anna, the name of a marijuana vending machine created by a Massachusetts native, is expected to arrive at local dispensaries by 2021.
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Anna’s creator, Matt Frost, first became interested in the emerging cannabis market, while he was doing an MBA program at Boston University, specifically when working on a case study on what causes bottlenecks in lines.
The potential opportunities in the pot market
Frost recognized the potential opportunities in the pot market and ended up dropping out of the MBA to explore them from within.
The result of Frost’s ambition turned into the creation of Anna Kiosks, best described as a mix between vending machines and self check-out systems that comply with each state’s marijuana regulations.
Reduction of customer time in-store
This has reduced the time customers are in-and-out of a marijuana store to almost a minute and has been in the works since 2017.
Changing the market in the middle of the pandemic
It turns out, Anna came just at the right time. Faced with the Coronavirus pandemic, social distancing measures have encouraged an entire new way of living. Shopping in ways that follow health and safety guidelines, these easy and essentially contactless machines could bring the entire marijuana market to a whole new level.
This is coupled with the fact that because of all the uncertainty of these unprecedented times, marijuana dispensaries have been deemed essential businesses in states where it’s legal in some way or another.
‘Anna’ launched in Colorado, Nevada earlier this year
Anna Kiosks will be available locally in Massachusetts, starting in 2021. It already launched in Colorado, Nevada, back in August of 2020, holding over 2000 products between cannabis flower, edibles, infused beverages, balms and vape oils. Anna debuted at two dispensaries in Colorado.
Plans for Expansion
Plans for expansion, besides Massachusetts, are expected in at least 23 locations by the end of 2020.
Massachusetts expected to start with three vending machines
One of Anna’s key features is abiding to state rules on marijuana. To clarify, it won’t dispense products or amounts beyond the state limit.
It’s not yet known which Massachusetts dispensaries plan to bring the machine in, it’s expected to be available at three or four stores at first, allowing customers to pre-order their products or directly get them in-store.
For in-store purchases, a budtender unlocks the screen of the machine, allowing customers to then scroll through a touch screen menu of products. Once products are selected, payment may be done in cash or card and dispensed.
On the other hand, pre-order customers will get a QR code on their mobile that the machine will scan and directly dispense the purchased products.
The name ‘Anna’ is a play on the word ‘Analytics’, Frost shared previously. It’s not just the machine’s name but also the company’s, based in Boston and Boulder, Colorado. The small team has five full-time members and some part-timers.
EZ Weed first brought the marijuana vending machine concept to life
As innovative as Anna is though, Matt Frost’s invention isn’t necessarily the first of its kind, or at least the company wasn’t making its rounds among legislators to allow marijuana vending machines at dispensaries.
Anna’s predecessor was company EZ Weed with a similar vending machine concept. They had a different approach and opted for technology that reads vein pulsations through fingertips.
While the company faced even bigger backlash when starting out, wary regulators and working through a federal prohibition on a state-scale, they finally launched in January of 2020.