If the idea behind vending machines is to make soda and candy bars as accessible as possible, the latest effort from Lakewood-based Infinite CBD should come as no surprise to people who have been watching the CBD craze explode over the past two years.
That’s right, a vending machine where a credit or debit card goes in and CBD products come out.
The company earlier this summer sent its first fully stocked vending machine to a liquor store in Fargo, N.D., CEO and co-founder John Ramsay said. Even the machine’s placement, in typically conservative North Dakota, is a testament to how far hemp-derived CBD has come in the last few years. It’s gone from taboo to being sold by Walmart, the nation’s biggest retailer.
The response to the machine, carrying capsules, tinctures and other items from Infinite’s line of health and wellness products made with the ubiquitous cannabis-derived compound, has been solid so far, according to the CEO.
“It did $1,000 in sales in the first three weeks without any marketing,” said Ramsay.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of the active ingredients found in the cannabis plant. Not to be confused with its high-inducing cousin THC, proponents laud CBD for its relaxing and anti-inflammatory effects that come without the intoxication. With state and federal regulations loosening around hemp — a bill passed during Colorado’s 2018 legislative session dictated that hemp and hemp extracts like CBD should be regulated as food ingredients — infused products have been popping up everywhere.
It’s the one place — for now anyway — that CBD products can’t be sold that spurred Ramsay to explore the vending machine idea: Inside recreational pot shops.
Because of a likely-to-change rule that mandates all consumable products in adult-use marijuana stores must contain marijuana, Ramsay was barred from selling his goods, made with a 99 percent CBD isolate, to dispensaries to stock on their shelves. The workaround he arrived at was vending machines with their own point-of-sale systems, even though he has yet to place a machine in a Colorado dispensary so far.
“Instead of having to wait for somebody or anything like that, you could just walk right in purchase whatever you wanted with your card and walk right out,” he said. “We’re just making sure that people have safe access to affordable, clean cannabidiol.”
There is no age limit imposed by the state on who can buy and consume CBD, according to Samantha Walsh, a board member with the Colorado Hemp Industries Association. The state health department regulates it like it does sugar, caffeine or any other food additive. Walsh is fully on board with the idea of vending machines that make CBD products easier to access.
“I love it,” she said. “Right now, CBD is like antioxidants used to be. It happens to be the new craze in wellness.”
Infinite tested a vending machine in its combination office/lab/warehouse/manufacturing facility in western Lakewood for six months before shipping its first model to Fargo. Features include a refrigerated bottom compartment for drinks and other products that need to be kept cold and an on-board monitoring system that keeps track of inventory and sales data. Ramsay said work is already underway on a next-generation “smart” vending machine that would help the company track even more data on consumer behavior and preferences around CBD.
The company is in talks to bring its machines to consumers a lot closer to home. Jimmy Schneider, part of the company’s marketing department, said he expects to close a deal in the near future that will see the black, CBD-dispensing boxes rolled out in a handful of shopping centers around metro Denver.
“They really hit a lot faster and harder than we anticipated,” Ramsay said. “We’ve really just been amazed by the response.”