Looking for this vending machine for a Hershey bar? You can find CBD there instead
The vending machine, that familiar device at gas stations and schools, gyms and offices, made its first appearance in the United States in 1888, selling chewing gum on New York train platforms. Known early on as “trade boosters”, these machines lived up to their name, and in the modern age were both ubiquitous and successful in their sales of candy bars and sodas, cigarettes and hygiene items.
No wonder Green Roads, the Florida-based CBD and wellness products company, is eager to use this sales channel for its legal products. “Vending machines as a point-of-sale experience have exploded,” Green Roads marketing director Lee Sosin said in a recent interview. “You walk through an airport terminal and see everything from beauty products to headphones; and the technology has become very sophisticated and user-friendly.
At the end of August, Green Roads launched the installation of phase 1 of the first 30 of a possible 40 machines in 37 shopping centers, all owned by the Simon Property Group. Locations range from New York and New Jersey to Florida, Illinois and as far away as Anchorage, Alaska. Sosin called these CBD vending machines a first. The machines themselves, designed by Signifi Solutions, contain only Green Roads products and no traditional sales items (“You can’t use the same dispenser you would use for a chocolate bar or a can of soda,” points out Sosin).
If any eyebrows are raised, vending machines are legal under federal law. In 2018, the US Farm Bill legalized hemp-based cannabinoids as long as their THC content – the compound that gets you high – remains virtually non-existent, at 0.01% or less.
So kids won’t get their hands on “marijuana” that way (yes, the machines ask customers to affirm they’re 18, but that’s hard to enforce). At the state level, all but three states have legalized CBD, although its use in food and drink may be restricted.
Otherwise, Green Roads is on solid ground legally, although it remains to be seen if there is a local pushback. “Our products are not intoxicating,” says Sosin, who says he has not received any complaints to date. “Our products range from sleep products [using the cannabinoid CBN], stress, muscle and joint pain, concentration and relaxation. And among these solutions there are capsules, gummies, creams and roll-ons, so a wide variety of products. Prices are as low as $2.99 for a trial size of a product, tend to hover below $40, says Sosin, but go up to $99).
Of course, seeing how a “CBD vending machine” is a new experience for mall-goers, Signifi incorporated technology for consumers to ask questions. Touchscreens and a visible phone number are present, as is an internal camera allowing the company to diagnose and timestamp what’s wrong with the machine if the products aren’t showing up.
Green Roads, created in 2013 by pharmacist Laura Fuentes, went public when it was bought by Canadian-based Valens Company for $40 million in 2021 as a US location. According to an August announcement, Valens is itself being acquired by SNDL, in an equity-based deal.
Clearly, CBD and some of the more than 100 other cannabinoids in the cannabis plant are considered good investments. Sosin, who says Green Roads is set to launch a “more robust gold formula” oil, acknowledges the potential appeal of vending machines for Green Roads’ CBD competitors.
Yet that appeal, he adds, is easy to understand, given their obvious selling point: immediacy. “To not have to wait for a shipment to arrive for an online order, but [instead] have this moment [result]is ideal, he says. “Because the product is there: we think it’s a great service for our customers.”