Greenbox Robotics Sees Future in CBD Vending Machines


In states where recreational cannabis sales are legal, a trip to the dispensary could take up a significant portion of someone’s day. 

In Michigan, where adult-use sales began earlier this month, customers waited in lines for hours to purchase legal weed. In Massachusetts, long lines are a regular sight outside of New England Treatment Access (NETA) in the Boston-area town of Brookline. 

The annoyance of waiting in line is what prompted Zack Johnson to launch his own cannabis business in 2017. 

A few years ago, Johnson arrived at a marijuana dispensary only to see an extended line formed out front. As an experienced cannabis purchaser, he knew exactly what he wanted when he arrived. Nevertheless, Johnson was forced to wait his turn.

At the time, he worked for a California-based marketing firm, which represented a metal fabrication company that dealt heavily in old-school vending machines. Johnson figured that a similar device could help solve meandering marijuana dispensary lines, and Greenbox Robotics was born.

Greenbox bills itself as “the first fully automated CBD kiosk,” a 6-foot-tall, highly technical piece of machinery that Johnson is producing domestically at one manufacturing facility in Chester, Connecticut, and another in Louisville, Colorado. Customers are greeted by a large touchscreen and an array of products arranged into lifestyle categories such as “Drift and Dream” and “Release and Recovery.” Every choice comes with an in-depth description of the product, its ingredients and intended effects, a level of education Johnson feels separates Greenbox from other standalone CBD products found in convenience stores, gas stations and the like.  

“What really disappoints me and tarnishes what we’ve built at Greenbox is people who are taking Funyons and Doritos and Pepsi out of an existing machine and stocking it with cannabis or CBD and calling themselves a Greenbox competitor,” said Johnson.

According to Johnson, the average checkout time from start to finish is about 90 seconds. 

When customers choose a product, a robotic arm springs to life, suctions the desired box from a refrigerated area below and drops it into a shoot for the customer to grab. But not before scanning your ID with what Johnson calls the most sophisticated age-verification technology on the market. 

Think of Greenbox as the arcade claw machine of your youth, but all grown-up. 

Greenbox is currently piloting its machines at 7-Eleven locations in Denver and Boulder, Colorado. Those placements were born out of an arrangement with Monfort Companies director Kenneth Monfort, who owns the two convenience stores and is the son of Colorado Rockies co-owner Charlie Monfort.

Johnson said the idea is to create a mutually beneficial partnership that drives awareness and foot traffic to the Greenbox machines while offering 7-Eleven customers a new reason to stop in. The hope, of course, is that users will purchase other items during their visit. 

“We want to be a value-add at 7-Eleven stores,” Johnson told THCnet.

The machines currently stock CBD products only, the result of the ever-moving regulations surrounding THC sales in Colorado and beyond. Johnson views it as a launching point for expanded sales of THC products, however. 

“If we have to consider CBD as a lillypad to get us to comfortability around THC, then I’m all for it,” he said. 

Looking ahead, Johnson hopes to expand the partnership with 7-Eleven, and begin Greenbox activations in high-traffic areas like shopping malls and airports. He’s also looking into bringing manufacturing in-house and releasing his own products. 

“Our goal is to learn as much about what is moving and what customers actually like so that we can use that data to manufacture our own products and be vertically integrated and develop our own brands,” he said.

Ultimately, Johnson views Greenbox as the next frontier in an industry with boundless potential and plenty of pain-points. 

Indeed, remember what a revelation it was to rent movies from a big red box? The cannabis industry is catching up.

“Bye-bye, Redbox,” said Johnson. “Hello, Greenbox.”

Tags: CBD, Technology

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