Cannabis is now available from vending machines in select California dispensaries. Made by California-based Greenstop, the self-serve kiosks can simultaneously serve four customers while still conforming to local regulations. And they couldn’t come at a better time.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, cannabis is considered an essential business in California, and the system provides dispensaries with a solution to keep customers and sales associates safe. Plus, as an introvert myself, sometimes I’m not in the mood to talk to a budtender, and I want to get in and out with my weed. The transaction can happen in seconds, Greenstop’s executives tell TechCrunch.
Greenstop calls it the Smart Dispensary, and thinks of these kiosks as the self-service checkout lane at a grocery store. In this case, a clerk, or a budtender, oversees the operation by granting access after checking IDs and assisting customers when needed. By having this clerk as part of the process, dispensaries conform to regulations and can employ these kiosks as part of their operation.
Greenstop was founded and bootstrapped by Timothy Island and James Edwards in 2015; they launched their prototype in 2018. Now, in September of 2020, the company is launching its product, employs 10 people and is looking to raise $5 million to expand the company first in Los Angeles, then throughout California and, finally, expanding nationwide.
The Smart Dispensary units are located in two locations at launch: Marina Caregivers in Marina Del Rey, California, and The Healing Touch, in Encino, California. Because each kiosk serves four people, adding one kiosk to a small dispensary can increase sales capacity without hiring a new budtender.
Initially, the Greenstop machines were designed with just speed in mind. Get in and out with weed as fast as a person could buy a six-pack. Co-CEO Timothy Island tells TechCrunch that after developing the machine, the company discovered other benefits.
“[With] the self-service experience, it feels like you’re in the driver’s seat when you’re shopping,” Island said.
The Greenstop machine features a fully interactive display, allowing the dispensary to upload its entire menu with rich media. Consumers can take their time and read information about strains and types of cannabis. And for the first time, this information is available at a dispensary without talking to someone.
Second, the kiosk provides a contact-free shopping experience. The company fitted temporary plexiglass shields to help increase social distancing during the pandemic.
Co-CEOs Island and Edwards say in the future, the company expects to launch a mobile app, allowing customers to research and pre-purchase orders from a mobile device.
Currently, Greenstop is co-branding the machine along with the dispensaries. By featuring both brands, consumers gain confidence in its legitimacy while Greenstop gains increased brand awareness.
The company expects to grow first in Los Angeles and the surrounding area. Eventually, they hope to be in dispensaries throughout California and nationwide. The co-CEOs explain that because the company is not operating as a dispensary, but rather as the maker of a retail product, it can move more quickly into other states.
Co-CEO James Edwards said their product is gaining increased attention due to COVID-19. “A lot of people see the need not to have to talk to a budtender because, nationwide, you have to talk to a budtender to buy cannabis.”
He’s right. In some dispensaries, this causes large lines, and space is a premium with social distancing restrictions.
COVID-19 is presenting Greenstop with a unique opportunity. Cannabis is booming during the pandemic. Social distancing is becoming the social requirement, and Greenstop’s product is built and ready to be deployed to make 2020 suck a little bit less.