Updated on December 18, 2017.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Most of us have used an electronic kiosk or vending machine to order food, withdraw money and check out our own groceries. But, what if we could use them to get our marijuana medicine, too?
Marijuana entrepreneurs are making that idea a reality by bringing electronic kiosks to marijuana dispensaries. In an industry with so many regulations, marijuana kiosks are a breath of fresh air for dispensary owners looking for more business options.
You might see a marijuana kiosk come to a dispensary near you — in fact, your local shop might already have one. This innovation is a potential game-changer for dispensaries across the country.
What Are Marijuana Kiosks?
Marijuana kiosks are electronic kiosks that help you buy cannabis medicine. The way they do this varies by the machine manufacturer. The first kiosks only sold edible products, similar to standard vending machines you’d find in business lobbies. You could use them to buy medical goodies like brownies, cookies and drinks. However, edibles don’t work well for every patient, limiting the usefulness of the machines for everyone.
In 2015, the machines began to offer marijuana bud as well, making the kiosks viable for more patients. You can specify the strain and amount of bud that you want to purchase using the machine’s interface. Since you can use marijuana flower in so many ways, patients with a variety of medical needs can now use marijuana kiosks for extra convenience.
Some electronic cannabis kiosks have bonus features that add to the shopping experience. For example, some provide detailed information about the products it dispenses, which helps patients learn more about the product when they purchase it. Other machines even offer video games for you to play while you wait for your order.
How Do Marijuana Kiosks Work?
The general purpose of a medical marijuana kiosk is to make purchasing and paying easier for the customer. Weed kiosks streamline the shopping experience to make it more efficient for both budtenders and patients.
However, while electronic kiosks facilitate the marijuana-buying experience, you can only use them in dispensaries. Even in states with liberal marijuana laws, you can’t just find a weed vending machine on the street where you can buy your medicine. So, you still have to visit a dispensary to obtain your cannabis.
Plus, even though many kiosks manage most of the ordering process, you still must work with a budtender at some point during the transaction. How much you interact with the kiosk vs. the budtender depends on the kind of machine the dispensary uses. Regardless of the type of machine, you’ll still have access to a budtender in case you have any questions or concerns.
Some kiosks only accept cash, leaving the rest of the transaction in the budtender’s hands. They ensure accurate money counting and retain cash to use as change.
Each brand of kiosk provides machines in different states. They tend to be available in states with more weed-positive laws, such as Washington and Colorado. But, as the marijuana industry grows, kiosk companies branch out to more states.
While certain states allow the use of marijuana kiosks, marijuana is still illegal on a federal level. So, manufacturers must take care when conducting business. Many of the legal issues kiosk companies consider involve payment methods.
Specifically, marijuana kiosks address the issues surrounding cash payments in dispensaries. Most businesses in the marijuana industry only use cash transactions because many banks hesitate to process card payments for dispensaries due to the federal illegality of weed.
The first concern about cash-only payments that comes to mind, inconvenience, is made easier with electronic kiosks. Even kiosks only meant to handle cash payments make paying with cash faster. In addition, some kiosks accept bitcoins and vouchers that expand customers’ payment options beyond dollar bills.
Another issue with primarily using cash payments is security concerns. If it’s not stored securely, thieves can easily steal cash from businesses. Kiosks can safely store a dispensary’s cash, discouraging potential thieves and making it harder for those who do attempt to steal.
What Can We Expect From Marijuana Kiosks in the Future?
We live in an age where both the marijuana and technology industries are experiencing rapid growth. Since kiosks involve both industries, we can expect them to grow, as well.
In fact, some of the marijuana kiosk technology we could see in the future already exists for kiosks serving other purposes. After all, we already have machines that dispense products like movies and tea, so we have the technological capacity to make machines that directly dispense marijuana. The ability of kiosk companies to offer machines that dispense weed relies on our legal and social acceptance of cannabis medicine.
If banks didn’t have to worry about legal consequences for handling marijuana transactions, kiosks could read payment cards. Some machines, like the ones distributed by Jane, already have the capacity to read cards — they just need the go-ahead from banks. Lifting the federal prohibition could seriously boost the marijuana economy, let alone kiosk use.
We could also see marijuana kiosk use on an international scale, with Jamaica serving as the pioneer. To enhance the country’s tourism market, Jamaica plans to emphasize the medical benefits of the marijuana grown in their country. As a part of this plan, they want to add kiosks to their major airports so cannabis patients can get their medicine on vacation.
How to Find More Information About Marijuana Medicine and Kiosks