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Future Tech

Weed-Dispensing Robots Are A Thing

New from company Greenbox: CBD and THC vending machines.
Weed-Dispensing Robots Are A Thing
Image credit: Caroline Murphy
VIP Contributor
cannabis, biotech and entrepreneurship reporter
4 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Powered by an interactive touch screen, Greenbox’s new robots dispense multiple types and strains of cannabis products, from edibles to flower to CBD -- all in one transaction.

The robots actively monitor the temperature and shelf life of each product and perform automated analysis of purchasing trends, giving dispensary owners deep insight into what their customer base wants.

To learn more about the technology underlying the first fully automated cannabis dispensing robot, Benzinga spoke with  Zack Johnson, the founder and CEO of Greenbox Robotics.

The Vision

“Like all entrepreneurs, I’ve bowled gutters and strikes, earned my hard knocks and danced on the edge of the abyss more times than my heart would like. But every step, every cold call and bar napkin scribble has brought me to my current venture, Greenbox Robotics, the world’s first intelligent cannabis dispensing robot,” Johnson said.

Using the Greenbox app, customers can browse each box’s wares and prices and make “a trip to the dispensary” in under 3 minutes on average, according to Greenbox.

“Greenbox makes it easy to discover, select and purchase cannabis and CBD products via self-service robot locations,” Johnson said. “We are bringing a $55-billion-plus industry over the counter with a simple consumer touch.”

The foundation of this technology-driven approach to cannabis distribution is artificial intelligence; Greenbox actively notifies its owners and accommodates customers more effectively with each transaction.

AI And Distribution

The first vending machine reached the market in 1883, and the underlying principles haven’t evolved significantly since then.

Outside of accommodating new payment methods, the core idea of portable storage units that dispense goods for a price hasn’t been disrupted for close to a century. At least until now.

“We didn’t just go out and repurpose old vending machines to carry cannabis products like some of our competitors; we engineered and manufactured Greenbox from the ground up specifically for cannabis consumers,” Johnson said.

This purpose-driven approach to design bore fruit. 

“When a robot is placed outside of dispensary walls in shopping malls, grocery stores or hotels, our integrated verification partner confirms the age and identity of the customer prior to completing the transaction.”

A yearlong collaboration with a dispensary in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles, California led to the vision behind Greenbox's product, Johnson said.

“I got to see how the gears turned inside a dispensary intimately. I realized that there were so many lost opportunities and rampant inefficiencies that could be weeded out, so to speak, with some good old 21st-century automation.”

Plans For The Future

While cannabis operators are in a period of aggressive consolidation, Johnson doesn’t see any M&A plans in the future for Greenbox.

“Our focus is on building more robots and providing as much value for our customers as possible," he said.

Greenbox is selective about who it partners with, and is only interested in companies with long-term, well-crafted strategies around growth, branding and distribution, the CEO said.

"There are a lot of people trying to be a part of this industry right now, but it is fundamental to align with those that share the same vision about the industry we do."

Rather than cashing out, Johnson's vision is one of global market penetration.

“My ultimate vision is having a Greenbox in every city in the world — specifically in malls, airports and hotels.”

The legal landscape makes that vision unobtainable for now, but Johnson said he's unfazed.

“As global restrictions loosen up, our reach will expand. We have been approached by entrepreneurs globally,” he said. “The goal is to build a strong foundation in the United States with a predetermined number of deployed robots.”

Lead photo by Caroline Murphy. 

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