You can now get cannabis from one of these. Photo: Mike Mozart
You can now get cannabis from one of these. Photo: Mike Mozart

The US company American Green Inc, a division of the Tranzbyte Corporation, has developed a vending machine which dispenses cannabis. It could even do the alcohol that goes with it, the snacks you crave afterwards and … handguns, just in case you feel the need for one. Pharmaceuticals and casino chips are further possibilities.

How it goes

After an account is set up online, biometric technology is employed to check that the buyer is of age: fingers are scanned to obtain vascular architecture – the layout of veins – which is a great deal more accurate than a basic fingerprint and even differs in identical twins. American Green calls its device “the world’s most sophisticated vending system.” This vending machine can tell the difference between the fingers of live people and dead ‘uns or severed fingers because blood must be flowing. Proof of ID and physical and email addresses are also taken, which are checked by both a machine and a human. Stephen Shearin, a consultant to the firm, commented that the biometric bit is what is used by the military. “You really can’t argue with that,” he added. It would be possible to disallow a sale if you were overdoing things, which is certainly desirable if alcohol was sold.

We’ve come a long way since 2009

American Green, which grows its own cannabis, has worked on this project since its foundation in 2009; it was one of the world’s first publicly-traded cannabis-related companies (second, to be exact). It was tried in 2013, which Shearin describes as “an epic fail.” A 2017 article by Seeking Alpha, whose contributors are investors and industry experts and which had three million registered users in 2014 leading to eight million unique visitors a month, described American Green as “despicable” and “truly awful” and called the company’s vending machine “dead on arrival” and – repeatedly – a “failure.” Other, equally scathing comments can be found. But American Green has now made the front page of USA Today, so perhaps its fortunes have recovered. The name of the product has changed from ZaZZZ to the American Green Machine.

Now, thanks to smartphones and apps, the public is more used to the idea of obtaining cannabis from a vending machine. With ID verification, regulatory agencies will also be pleased. 22 machines have been built, and they will begin to appear in marijuana dispensaries in Alaska and California next week. In states such as California, it would be possible to install one outside of a dispensary. The machines cost $20,000 with a further $500 a month for upkeep.

What about security?

For security, there is a camera to the front, extra layers of metal and an alarm. Tim Sanford, editor-in-chief of Vending Times, a trade publication, remarked that anyone wishing to steal the contents would be better off robbing a shop.

Problems, problems

One complication is that while 28 states permit cannabis for medicinal purposes and eight of these allow it for recreation, it remains illegal at the federal level, so cannabis products can’t cross state lines nor can a debit or credit card be used for payment.

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