The Terrapin Care Station dispensary in Aurora now houses the country’s first fully automated cannabis vending machine. Developed in partnership with BMC Universal Technologies, the machine allows customers to order marijuana products through a touchscreen and dispense them directly to take-out. The Automated Cannabis Experience (ACE), as it’s officially known, picks, packs, seals and affixes a verification sticker to every order, allowing for a fast and contactless purchase. And because it’s integrated with Colorado’s seed-to-sale tracking system, it’s also compliant with state and local regulations. (Provided by Terrapin Care Station)
Cannabis users who stop by the Terrapin Care Station dispensary in Aurora can now purchase weed the same way they would purchase their favorite kibble: from a vending machine.
In early February, the company installed what it called an Automated Cannabis Experience (ACE), a large machine that allows customers to order marijuana products via a touchscreen and dispense them to take home. Terrapin Care Station developed ACE in partnership with Canadian vending machine company BMC Universal Technologies, announcing it as the first fully automated cannabis kiosk on the market.
The Boulder-based company first introduced the dispenser at MJBizCon in November, where industry representatives and keen enthusiasts lined up daily to try it out.
“It was crazy, it felt like we were having an amusement park ride there,” spokesman Peter Marcus said.
Locals who want to see the new technology for themselves can visit the Terrapin Care Station at 11091 E. Mississippi Ave. Visit Aurora, which boasts the only ACE currently in use. When they arrive, they still need to register with a pharmacy representative and prove they are at least 21 years old to gain entry.
But once inside the pot shop, they can complete their purchases without ever interacting with a budtender.
The Automated Cannabis Experience (ACE), as it’s officially known, picks, packs, seals and affixes a verification sticker to every order, allowing for a fast and contactless purchase. (Provided by Terrapin Care Station)
Customers simply go to the machine, scan their ID and use a touchscreen to navigate the menu and fill their digital shopping cart. The ACE can hold up to 1,152 products, Marcus said, and because it’s refrigerated, consumers can order concentrates that need to be stored at a specific temperature, as well as flowers, edibles, vape oil cartridges, and other items.
Once customers are ready to check out, they pay with cash — the machine doesn’t currently accept debit cards — and watch through a 38″ x 30″ glass window as the ACE grabs their order, wraps, seals, and applies a purchase sticker to their pre-issue like at issue an average vending machine.
hoping for a revolution
If the concept sounds familiar, that’s because in 2020, The Denver Post wrote about another cannabis vending machine called Anna that debuted in Colorado. According to Marcus, the two machines have significant differences, most notably that the ACE machine is integrated with Metrc, Colorado’s marijuana tracking system from seed to sale, making it compliant with state and local regulations.
Matt Frost, Anna’s founder and CEO, could not be reached for comment, but representatives from dispensaries Strawberry Fields and Star Buds, where Anna was first introduced, said the machines were short-lived largely because of compliance issues. Ben Tafoya, supervisor at Star Buds in Southeast Aurora, said transactions are ultimately faster the old-fashioned way.
Developed in partnership with BMC Universal Technologies, the machine allows customers to order marijuana products through a touchscreen and dispense them directly to take-out. And because it’s integrated with Colorado’s seed-to-sale tracking system, it’s also compliant with state and local regulations. (Provided by Terrapin Care Station)
“Everything has to be accounted for and put a sticker on after purchase to prove a legal transaction has taken place, so there always had to be someone at the machine,” Tafoya said. “It wasn’t as successful as we would have liked, so it didn’t last long. I think we only did a handful of transactions with it.”
While Terrapin Care Station eventually plans to install ACE machines in its five other Front Range pharmacies, Marcus said the company’s long-term goal is to sell the technology to other “soft” retailers across the state and country.
Cannabis sales hit record highs during the pandemic — accounted for about $2.2 billion in 2020 and another $2.2 billion in 2021, according to the Marijuana Enforcement Division — but have since declined sharply.
In 2022, January-November revenue, the latest data available, was about $1.6 billion — a 21% decrease from the same period last year.
Additionally, many pharmacies are experiencing the same staffing crisis that is plaguing other sectors of the service industry, Marcus said. Adding an automated checkout experience can not only help fill the staff gaps, but also speed up the shopping experience for customers.
“Plus it’s kind of a fun experience, I’m not going to lie. It’s something that potentially attracts new consumers,” Marcus said.
If it catches on, the folks at Terrapin Care Station believe ACE could revolutionize the industry and show up in places where traditional vending machines are. Terrapin Care Station CEO Chris Woods called it “a truly groundbreaking way for consumers to buy cannabis” in a statement.
“It’s not crazy to think that in a few years — with changes in regulations — you might see these at Union Station, or like ATMs where you swipe cards to get into the ATM,” Marcus said. (Full Story)