Science & tech

Robot Budtenders Are Coming to Scan Your Fingerprints

Published on May 16, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020
A young woman is standing in the street and is opening her purse to make a purchase

For anyone who’s ever been too anxious or paranoid to interact with a living, breathing human being when buying cannabis, one company has a solution.

Phoenix-based American Green, a medical cannabis technology company, has introduced a vending machine that uses biometric verification (read: a fingerprint scan) to sell controlled or age-restricted items.

While the device could theoretically be used to sell just about anything—casino chips, booze, and even guns have been floated as possibilities—American Green has its sights on, well… suffice it to say the company is called American Green.

The machine, called the ZaZZZ according to the company’s website, debuted at a Las Vegas convention last month. While it’s not yet approved for use in any legal-cannabis state, industry insiders believe it could eventually be rolled out in states like California that allow cannabis sales outside of licensed dispensaries.

An Insider’s Guide to California’s Proposed Medical Marijuana Regulations

According to USA Today’s Zlati Meyer, who first reported the story, the machine is able to screen potential buyers not just for age, but also, in medical states, to be sure they have valid doctor recommendations:

The unique feature of the prototype is that it can screen potential buyers. A customer sets up an account with a government-issued identification and, when needed, a doctor’s prescription. A scan of the account holder’s finger verifies it’s the right person. The machine is outfitted with a camera.

Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML, tells USA Today that the device “could make individuals who need [cannabis] more comfortable. They won’t run into their pastor or kindergarten teacher outside a dispensary.”

Unless, of course, their pastor or kindergarten teacher is in line for the cannabis vending machine.

Security is apparently a top concern for the company, and USA Today says the company has planned for some scenarios that are, frankly, pretty gruesome:

Don’t even think about cutting off someone else’s finger to gain access to his or her account, though. [American Green’s former chief operating officer] explained that the finger scanner looks at vein architecture and if there’s no blood flowing through the dismembered digit, nothing will show up.


While the ZaZZZ is chalk full of bells and whistles (and capital z’s), it’s not the first vending machine to offer cannabis products, as Time’s Brad Tuttle reports:

As surprising as it may sound, some vending machines already do sell marijuana. One machine, also operated by American Green, popped up in Seattle in 2015, and a marijuana dispensary in Vancouver introduced the first pot vending machine in Canada last year. But with these machines, there is always an employee on hand who will be checking ID before anyone can make a purchase.

Can’t get enough robot budtenders? Check out the USA Today video below. Or go old-school and read about security cows.

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Ben Adlin
Ben Adlin
Ben Adlin is a Seattle-based writer and editor who specializes in cannabis politics and law. He was a news editor for Leafly from 2015-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @badlin
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