Cannabis kiosks: The next revolution in self-service
The effort to legalize marijuana for medicinal or recreational usage has been long, but it is finally bearing fruit. Marijuana is legal for recreational use in Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Colorado and the District of Columbia.
However, banks refuse to deal with the marijuana industry because cannabis remains on the federal list of banned substances, and acquiring and processing payments for it could put a bank at risk for AML/KYC prosecution. As a result, legal marijuana businesses cannot accept debit or credit cards.
Cash-only status can be a security liability for businesses. However, some vendors are offering kiosk solutions to the payment problem.
In particular, a company called Jane has developed a payment kiosk that acts as an all-in-one solution for marijuana retailers, according to company CEO David Ellerstein. The company was originally a creator of payment kiosks to enable remittances. However, in 2014, co-founder Jeff Foster saw an opportunity to provide a cash management tool for the cannabis industry.
The kiosk is designed to store cash in an integrated safe, which is not accessed by employees. The cash is picked up by an armored car manned by trained security professionals, according to a Jane press release.
The kiosk can accommodate customers in three different ways:
First, a customer can order on the Jane smartphone app. This generates a QR code that is sent to the customer's phone for use at the kiosk.
"The kiosk has a scanner that will read the QR code and then you will make your payment," Ellerstein said. "It will update the POS which is integrated. Our POS integration makes everything run smoothly."
Second, customers can go to the store and request a QR receipt at the counter. They can then scan that receipt at the kiosk and perform the entire transaction there, including payment. The retailer prepares the order and gives it to the customer.
Third, the customer can place an entire order at the kiosk, then proceed to a waiting area called Jane Express while the order is prepared.
Other companies have developed their own solutions to the marijuana payment problem. For example, American Green Inc. uses Zazz vending kiosks, which dispense marijuana in exchange for payment by bitcoin, which is not tied to the formal banking system.
Other companies use voucher programs, Ellerstein said. With this model, customers purchase a voucher and then use it to pay for the cannabis.
One aim for these kiosks is to lend legitimacy to the growing cannabis industry, which in 2014 yielded more tax revenue for the state of Colorado than alcohol.
The industry hopes to win bank support by demonstrating that marijuana retailing can be safe and legitimate.
"This is a way to show bankers or regulators that you are a sophisticated retailer and you are being unfairly discriminated against," Ellerstein said.
Jane kiosks are EMV-ready in anticipation of the eventual acceptance of credit and debit card payments for marijuana.
Still, it is possible that financial institutions will wait for national legalization before enabling payments.
The good news for kiosk manufacturers is that they will likely play an even greater role to play after legalization. There will be a booming market for marijuana vending kiosks and devices that handle secure bill payment.
It could be the next revolution for self-service kiosks.
Bradley Cooper / Bradley Cooper is a Technology Editor for DigitalSignageToday.com. His background is in information technology, advertising, and writing.