Could AI Cannabis Vending Machine ‘Buddy’ Replace Budtenders?

Photos Courtesy Social Vend/Buddy.

While artificial intelligence (AI) cannabis vending machines likely won’t fully replace our beloved budtenders any time soon, they’re rather impressive.

Over the years, vending machines have been used for nearly everything. From consumables to cosmetics, many industries have automated the purchasing process.

But what about the cannabis industry?

An automatic budtender has to be on-point while operating in an industry characterized by shifting regulations and pricey infractions for compliance violations. So can these machines really replicate the expertise and professionalism of working with a knowledgeable budtender?

The Personalized Experience

When I first heard about Buddy, like any cannabis enthusiast, I was skeptical.

I remember traveling from Florida to Colorado the year cannabis became legal recreationally. I wanted to experience the legal industry for myself—and honestly, I couldn’t imagine the experience improving without the budtenders.

But Buddy seems like it could elevate the experience of visiting a dispensary.

The canna-vending machine delivers a personalized experience, offering relevant information to consumers while driving sales. Dispensaries can also customize storefront themes and create a virtual “budtender” personality.

While working with a budtender is a fantastic experience for some, others might prefer to grab their product and get home without the small talk.

Buddy & Cannabis Compliance

The company responsible for creating Buddy is UK-based tech startup Social Vend. This company launched in 2016 to create some of the most advanced vending machines for some of the world’s most popular brands.

Social Vend has created interactive and immersive vending experiences for Google, Pepsi, Ariana Grande, YouTube, Adidas, Samsung, Visa and other well-known brands. But for Buddy, there were several unique considerations to meet dispensary customers’ needs.

The canna-vending machine features extensive cannabis sector functionality to ensure compliance. Buddy has a built-in camera, scanner, and inventory tracking. It tracks customers’ daily purchasing limits, and dispensary operators can integrate it with their store’s existing POS or compliance solutions. Plus, your stock is secure Buddy’s high-security chassis and anti-theft locks. The machines also accept cash, credit cards, and cryptocurrency as payment.

Buddy takes past purchasing data into consideration too. Since the vending machine’s tech stores information about the customer’s purchases, it can make product and promotion recommendations specialized to the consumer’s needs. This can go beyond simple automation and increase sales with a personalized experience.

Buddy is “a simple, user friendly storefront makes purchasing easy for customers and management effortless for owners.” – company website.

Cannabis Storage with Buddy

There’s no need to worry about the freshness of buds from a Buddy vending machine. Each automated budtender can hold up to 80 product variants with a total stock capacity of up to 1600 products in a climate-controlled environment, ensuring super fresh buds every time. Dispensary operators can also set the temperature and receive notifications showing updates in real-time.

Buddy is launching throughout North America in November 2020. These canna-vending machines are available for pre-order now at


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