Meet the ZaZZZ — the first outside-the-counter vending machine to fulfill your marijuana needs.
American Green, a subsidiary of a technology company named Transbyte has set up the first ZaZZZ at the Herbal Elements dispensary in Eagle-Veil, Colorado. Similar vending machines have existed behind the counter in dispensaries before, but this is the first time that customers can operate on their own.
“We’ve been working on it for a few years,” Stephen Shearin, the chief operating officer of Transbyte, told VICE News. He said models like the interactive vending machine in Pakistan inspired the company to take vending to the next level.
Why vend marijuana? Well, Shearin appears to be a big fan of what’s happening in the marijuana industry.
“Hemp should not be illegal in this country,” he says. “The Declaration [of Independence] is written on hemp paper.”
Shearin sees how the country is moving toward a more accepting and understanding idea of marijuana, and he sees the future providing exponential growth.
Transbyte might have gotten its first machine in the Herbal Elements location, but the company isn’t stopping there. Shearin said that his company can make 17 machines a week, and they’re already on back order. The company plans to get out as many of these machines as they can.
The purpose of the machine is that it “provides a level of efficiency and tracking — it makes the business better and the client experience better,” he said. With a vending machine in the store, you can get your weed and be on your way to smoking it in less time.
Some people are not fans of what Transbyte is doing, though — such as Carla Lowe, founder of Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana.
“I think a great question to ask is, ‘What is the impact of a vending machine of an illegal substance going to have on the youth of America?’ ” Lowe told VICE News. “We’re talking about a dangerous illegal substance that our kids are hearing is no big deal,” she said, before adding that cannabis is harmful, dangerous, and has no medical use. “Legalizers are making millions of dollars, cartels are moving in, and now we’re going to have pot sticks out of a vending machine?”
Shearin disagrees. “As Americans, we have the right to recreation if we’re doing it responsibly. This is not an injurious product,” he said.
How It Works
The machine itself is actually pretty advanced — for a vending machine, at least. It can scan your ID to prove you’re the right age and person, it can regulate the temperature inside the machine, and it has an advanced accounting system to keep track of all transactions.
“This takes a little pressure off of the people monitoring the medicine area so they don't have to look over shoulders,” Greg Honan, the owner of the Herbal Elements dispensary, told USA Today.
It doesn’t scan medical cards yet, but it’s equipped to do so once the legal ramifications become less questionable. Right now, the marijuana law is too new for businesses to be confident that a machine checking a medical card wouldn’t cause legal trouble.
It essentially works like a Best Buy vending machine that you’d see at an airport, where it uses conveyors and elevators to gently bring your product to the opening, according to Shearin.
The machine can hold 300-400 items. You could make it a machine completely devoted to pot brownies, or it could be a mix of weed infusions and edibles, like the one at Herbal Elements.
“The machine is configurable for three to 60 dispensing skews. We ship a machine that has 19. In that case, we can put 15-20 items in each [slot].”
The one major problem facing machines like this, as well as dispensaries, is being able to accept credit cards.
The ZaZZZ can currently accept cash, bitcoin, and a rewards card (essentially a gift card for the machine), but banks aren’t yet budging on allowing people to swipe their credit or debit cards.
Since marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, banks worry that such transactions would break the law. Once they change their mind, the ZaZZZ is equipped to swipe those cards.
The ZaZZZ could be pretty versatile as a business tool. It can operate anywhere that has the proper wiring and security. Right now, the machine is plugged into the internet, but it could be converted to a battery-based/Wi-Fi device that works remotely.
Shearin said that the only requirements are internet access, a power connection, and a safe spot.
“I have contacts with solar units that would be powerful enough to run the machine,” he said. That means it could be used as an after-hours machine, if the right conditions were put together.
Shearin pointed out that the machine could be used for any number of dispensing needs, besides marijuana, but he also said, “Our focus right now, with American green, is MJ.”