Unattended Retail in the Cannabis Industry – How to Verify Age and Identity

The cannabis industry has always been at the forefront of technology and innovation. This has never been more apparent than during the Covid-19 pandemic, when cannabis retailers were forced to reconcile the conflict between mandated storefront closures and essential business status. By relying on the integration of technology and existing alternatives to conventional in-person shopping, the cannabis industry didn’t just meet the challenges of the pandemic – they transformed them into business opportunities

While online ordering, curbside pickup, drive thru, and delivery services are nothing new for commercial businesses, the successful rapid adoption of these practices into cannabis operations across the country was impressive, to say the least. Now, the cannabis industry has its eyes on another proven alternative to in-person retail transactions – unattended retail.

Otherwise known as ‘vending machines,’ unattended retail has been a part of casual commerce for decades, used for everything from food/beverage purchases, movie rentals, hygiene products, and more. Providing an unparalleled level of convenience for consumers, unattended retail eliminates the need to visit a brick-and-mortar establishment to buy the things you use the most.

Unattended Retail for Age Restricted Products

Using unattended retail for age restricted products is also nothing new, although considerably less common in the U.S. today than their non-restricted counterparts. Cigarette vending machines were first developed in 1926 by William Rowe, who went on to found the first manufacturing company in the U.S. to mass produce unattended retail machines for tobacco. However, due to the inability of these machines to verify the age of the consumer, these devices have become relatively rare and are typically only found in places that restrict minors from entering (such as bars, clubs, etc.).

But in light of the increased danger posed to consumers by direct-contact purchases during the pandemic, there has been a renewed interest in developing solutions to the problem of age verification and unattended retail for products like alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis.

By relying on advancements in digital ID verification tools, the cannabis industry is once again demonstrating their aptitude for innovation and creative problem solving. With the right age verification resources integrated into high-tech unattended retail solutions, cannabis vending machines have already become a reality in many areas around the country.

How to Verify Age with Unattended Cannabis Retail

Aside from growing their businesses, the number one priority for all cannabis companies should be maintaining compliance with all federal, state, and local regulations. Unattended cannabis retail machines are a great opportunity for expanding sales and maximizing profit, but ensuring that minors are unable to make a purchase prior to deploying these machines is absolutely critical.

That’s why cannabis retailers are partnering with experts in the ID verification industry to implement effective solutions for unattended retail that help ensure regulatory compliance. So how does it work?

Verifying IDs at unattended cannabis retail machines relies on the integration of AI software, biometric analysis, and image processing applications. Customers at the point of purchase are first required to upload a digital image of a valid ID into the verification provider/cannabis retailer’s online interface. When making a purchase, biometric face scanning technology matches the consumer with the ID on file and the transaction can be completed.

In addition to facial biometrics, some cannabis retailers also require fingerprint biometrics, which can then be used to quickly verify identity for repeat purchases. Other solutions used by retailers include the integration of cryptocurrency, requiring customers to use a unique digital currency to complete a purchase. This currency can only be used at these machines, is non-transferrable, and can only be purchased after completing an age verification process.

Currently, the use of facial and fingerprint biometric verification that matches customers with verified ID data every time a purchase is made is the most effective way to successfully deploy an unattended cannabis retail machine.

Additional Benefits – Data Collection

Aside from expanding the reach of a cannabis establishment beyond the walls of the dispensary, cannabis vending machines also provide retailers with an incredibly valuable tool for consumer data collection. Not only does the age verification process gather demographic information about verified consumers, but it also requires the use of personal mobile devices at the point of purchase.

When a verified customer uses their mobile device at a machine, retailers can leverage device information to deploy geo-location marketing tactics and consumer retargeting ad activations. Additionally, cannabis companies with access to mobile device data can discover which digital publications and social media platforms customers are using, improving the effectiveness of ad purchases and placements.

The Future of Cannabis Retail

As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, balancing age restriction regulations with customer convenience will remain a primary focus for businesses and consumers alike. Unattended retail machines are an integral part of this, providing opportunities for cannabis purchases in places that would have otherwise been impossible, such as cruise ships, casinos, and hotels.

Cannabis companies hoping to take advantage of these opportunities will need to rely on the expertise of companies on the forefront of the digital ID verification industry.

Reach out to an expert at IDScan.net to get started on your unattended retail journey today.

2 Potential Solutions to ID Verification For Cannabis Delivery

While the cannabis industry is one of the fastest growing consumer markets in the U.S. today (40% growth in sales during 2021), in many ways, it is still in its infancy. That’s why, when the Covid-19 pandemic brought the economy to a standstill by forcing businesses to close their shops, many of us were unsure if cannabis businesses could weather the storm. But in the face of these challenges, dispensaries across the U.S. developed innovative solutions, none of which has been more impactful than the implementation of cannabis delivery services

But cannabis delivery comes with its own unique challenges for brands and retailers, whose operational priorities include maintaining 100% compliance with municipal, state, and federal regulations. 

No matter which state they are shopping in, cannabis consumers are always required to show valid identification when purchasing cannabis products – and it is the responsibility of the business selling these products to verify them. Failing to sufficiently check a customer’s ID can result in serious penalties, including hefty fines, loss of business licensure, and even criminal charges

How Are Businesses with Cannabis Delivery Maintaining Compliance? 

With the consequences of non-compliance so steep, dispensaries with a delivery arm can’t leave anything to chance. 

But validating ID for cannabis purchase is even trickier in a delivery environment. Most of the top-tier scanners for detecting fakes require being wired to a desktop computer, with desktop ID verification or authentication software. They can’t be taken to a delivery site via car.

Furthermore, retailers that rely on overtaxed drivers to manually spot fake IDs when delivering products are fostering risks that make the businesses, and the drivers themselves, unnecessarily vulnerable. Detecting fakes and navigating the tricky conversations when fake IDs are encountered is hard enough inside the dispensary. Doing it at someone’s front door is even harder!

The solution? ID scanning technology that takes the guesswork out of the ID verification process. We foresee two primary options being favored by cannabis dispensaries that offer delivery.

Mobile Solutions

The easiest way for dispensaries to maintain ID verification compliance in a delivery environment is through mobile scanners. Many dispensaries try to do this using phones, but the cameras on iPhones and Androids simply are not powerful enough to properly scan IDs or detect fakes with any reliability. 

Mobile hardware, designed for scanning IDs on-the-go greatly increases reliability with an improved camera, laser lighting that ensures the ID is properly lit for scanning, and native integration with barcode scanning software. 

These mobile solutions make verification easy, leveraging the precision and speed of AI technology to efficiently inspect IDs for the markers that prove their legitimacy. These solutions use image processing tools to look for age, expiration status, and the other key indicators of a valid ID. They can be directly integrated with POS systems as well to sync the ID scan, customer identity, and the bill into a joined record.

Mobile ID scanning tools can even function offline, guaranteeing that cannabis delivery drivers are always able to verify customer IDs no matter where they are. 

Mobile App ID Verification

The second solution is the use of a pre-verification process using a mobile app. In this scenario, customers verify their identity on their phone before the delivery person leaves the dispensary. In this scenario:

  1. The customer takes a photo of the front and back of their ID
  2. The customer takes a selfie
  3. ID Scanning software confirms validity of the ID
  4. Facial recognition software matches the selfie and the photo on the ID

This process takes roughly 10-12 seconds, but it removes much of the friction, and the need for the driver to scan or verify the ID – the customer is already approved for purchase in the app and their ID is on file. Fake IDs are caught well before the delivery begins.

We believe mobile ID verification is likely the future of identity validation for age-restricted purchases. However, there is a barrier for small dispensaries as mobile ID verification requires use of a mobile app or website. 

Additional Benefits of ID Scanning For Cannabis Delivery

In addition to the obvious practical benefits of mobile ID scanning resources, cannabis dispensaries integrating this technology also profit from the enhanced ability to gather reliable consumer data

Data is one of the most valuable assets that any dispensary owns (providing useful insight into customer demographics, shopping patterns, and other behaviors), which can then be leveraged to improve a wide variety of strategic business activities. This is not possible with visual ID inspection. 

These insights can be used to develop:

  • Geo-location ad targeting – Consumers are more likely to order cannabis delivery from retail locations that are closest to their homes and where they work. By determining the radius from a dispensary location where the most customers are shopping (known as trade area targeting), dispensaries can develop partnerships with other local businesses where customers also shop, and can develop more effective competitive conquesting activations that pull business from other dispensaries in the same area.
  • Deals, Promotions, and Experiences – Data gathered from ID scanning technology can help dispensaries track the buying behaviors of customers, indicating which products consumers are drawn to. This information can be used to develop deals and promotions that customers will respond to, as well as strategies for live experiences to introduce new product rollouts and to optimize big sales days (like 4/20).  
  • Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) ad content – Customer data is also useful for tracking engagement with DOOH ad content, letting businesses know which billboards, signage, and online advertisements their consumers are engaging with. Additionally, once consumer information is integrated into dispensary databases, retailers can track the non-cannabis interest intersections of their customers to identify the platforms where DOOH ads will be the most effective. 
  • Measurable KPIs – The development of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are essential to growing a cannabis business, giving brands/retailers the information they need to see which business strategies are working (and which aren’t). Without KPI data, cannabis brands and retailers have no way to measure their own success. 
  • and more

Get Scanning

Cannabis delivery is the future of the cannabis industry, giving businesses the opportunity to serve customers that they would otherwise lose. With the strength and security of mobile ID scanning technology, business leaders can protect their assets by maintaining 100% compliance standards. And with the additional benefits provided by data harvesting applications (an innate feature of ID scanning tools), cannabis establishments can improve marketing activations, growth strategies, and the overall consumer experience. That’s just good business. 

To learn more about mobile ID scanning solutions for cannabis delivery or to schedule product demos, reach out to a specialist at IDScan.net today.

joint on the american flag

New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission Publishes Last Minute ID Scanning Requirements

7 days before New Jersey dispensaries are to open for recreational marijuana sales, the NJCRC notified dispensaries of new requirements for ID scanning.

  • IDs must be scanned digitally
  • Audit logs of scans must be retained with no PII except for date of birth (other non-identifiable PII may be deemed acceptable to retain)
  • Audit logs must be sent to the NJCRC at intervals TBD
  • No other information parsed from a scanned ID may be saved

NJCRC did not provide guidance on setup of customer profiles inside of CRMs, or if information from the ID can be saved if the customer consents. 

This makes New Jersey the second state to officially mandate digital scanning and disallow visual ID inspection for cannabis purchase, after Nevada. It follows the model of other states such as Illinois and Massachusetts who have instructed dispensaries to flush some or all PII after ID verification is performed. 

Why Nevada Is the Model for Dispensary ID Verification

At midnight on the 1st of July 2017, Nevada cannabis dispensaries officially opened to the public for recreational sales. Customers waited for hours in long lines circling around dispensaries, eager to purchase legal cannabis at the first opportunity. In Las Vegas, not only were local residents taking advantage of the new cannabis freedoms, but tourists from around the world flocked to the city to enjoy the benefits of recreational sales as well. 

But with so many people from all walks of life patronizing Nevada cannabis dispensaries, the task of validating IDs to comply with age restrictions can be a real challenge. The Nevada cannabis industry is still growing too, reaching more than $1 billion in total sales between 2020 – 2021. The diversity of consumers shopping at Nevada cannabis dispensaries results in a variety of personal IDs and passports, and cannabis establishments must be prepared to verify their authenticity at the point of sale. 

From driver’s licenses, state issued ID cards, U.S. Military IDs, Merchant Marine ID cards, passports, and Native American tribe enrollment cards, Nevada cannabis dispensaries are required by law to have systems in place to verify a vast array of acceptable personal IDs before they are even allowed to open for business. 

So how do they do it? 

Setting the Standard

Here’s a quick look at how Nevada dispensaries are setting the standard for ID verification: 

  • Mandatory ID Scanning Technology – The Nevada Department of Taxation (which governs the cannabis industry in Nevada) requires that all dispensaries utilize ID scanning technology. ID scanners help eliminate human error, significantly decreasing the risk of employees unknowingly accepting fake identification cards, or inadvertently allowing customers to exceed daily purchase limits. These tools are optimized to validate all acceptable forms of identification, verifying ages, capturing images, and reading ID barcodes. Nevada is currently the only state that requires ID scanning technology and does not allow for manual/visual ID checking at the door. 
  • METRC Integration – State approved ID scanning technology integrates with approved point-of-sale systems, automatically interacting with METRC software used by Nevada regulators. This helps guarantee adherence with state regulations, giving dispensary owners the power to protect their businesses from costly fines, license revocations, and possible criminal consequences due to non-compliance. Dispensaries that harmonize operations with METRC systems also foster growth in the cannabis industry by demonstrating the sophistication and accuracy of ‘seed to sale’ cannabis tracking processes, ensuring the delivery of safe products (fully taxed) for consumers. 

With the right ID scanning tools incorporated into all customer transactions, Nevada dispensaries can maintain compliance with state regulations, preventing the sale of cannabis products to minors and ensuring the integrity of seed to sale tracking methods.

Nevada’s Requirements

The Cannabis Compliance Board of the State of Nevada has approved the following ID scanner features and functions:

  • Capable of reading state-issued identifications.
  • 400 DPI high resolution imaging.
  • Scanning window large enough for passports.
  • Multiple wavelength illumination – visible and IR.
  • Data and images capture.
  • Offers a subscription service.
  • ICAO compliant documents in near infrared.
  • Reads 1D barcodes.
  • Reads 2D barcodes from paper documents and most mobile devices.
  • Reads Magnetic strips.
  • USB 2.0 high speed compatible.
  • The ability to verify and authenticate the identification cards of foreign nationals.
  • Age verification.

The Right Tools

Just like operators in Nevada, dispensary owners across the U.S. have a variety of options for ID scanning resources, making the process of securing the right one to meet the needs of cannabis establishments a little overwhelming. By partnering with experts in ID scanning solutions, cannabis dispensaries everywhere can trust that their systems meet the standard of excellence demonstrated by Nevada while ensuring compliance with their own state specific regulations. 

That’s why companies like IDScan.net work to offer customizable dispensary ID scanning packages that can meet the needs of individual and enterprise dispensaries alike. With the strength of IDScan’s IDWare Age solution, dispensaries can simultaneously protect their investments and enhance customer experiences by reducing in-store wait times, recording customer product preferences, and improving marketing through data-driven brand activations

IDScan’s scanner technology and software applications seamlessly merge with POS systems, enhancing the efficiency of transactions while automatically updating vital information into dispensary records, ensuring the accuracy of data required for METRC reporting. In addition to in-store scanning solutions, IDScan provides dispensaries with the ability to conduct curbside and contactless transactions with offline ID scanning options, keeping customers and employees safe without risking regulatory compliance violations. 

By partnering with excellence in ID verification at IDScan.net, dispensary owners across the U.S. can worry less about checking IDs and focus more on what they do best – growing their business.

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3 Reasons Why ID Scanning Is Crucial For Dispensary Operations

5 Commonly Used ID Scanners for Dispensaries

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably realized that the sale of recreational cannabis is growing rapidly around the country. More than 67% of Americans now support federal legalization, and the industry employs more than 243,000 full time workers. There are also more than 8,550 legal dispensaries with more opening daily. 18 states offer recreational cannabis, and 33 offer medical cannabis. 

With the rocket ship growth of the industry, there is great interest and concern in how the industry will verify and secure identity information of potential customers. Recreational cannabis is only available to persons over 21 years of age, but because the industry is so new ID laws have yet to catch up to the stringent requirements for sales of other age-restricted products. 

Sales to an underage consumer can put the dispensary license at risk.

“Our goal is 100 percent compliance,” said Washington State Liquor Control Board (who also manages dispensary licenses for the state) Chair Jane Rushford. “While perfect compliance is always a challenging goal, it is clearly in everyone’s interest that our licensees be vigilant about preventing underage sales.”

In most states a single violation means a fine and suspension of business for several days, while second and third offenses carry even stronger penalties. 

However, not all scanners and verification hardware is created equal. Here is a brief overview of some of our top-selling scanners that are used by our dispensary clients. Each has its pros and cons.

E-Seek M280

This desktop device is one of our most popular scanners. It incorporates a sleek design with a large number of capabilities including, full-color image capture, 300 DPI camera which captures full-color images of the customer’s identification. The device is USB powered so it doesn’t need a separate power supply. The M280 also has an onboard mag stripe reader for easy data collection in the event that a full-color image capture is not desired. However, a downside of the E-Seek M280 is…the lack of ability to scan both sides of the ID at the same time, which requires the user to flip over the ID to scan the reverse side, which can take precious time in high volume situations.

Panasonic FZ-N1

Second on the list but first in our hearts is the FZ-N1. This rugged military-grade handheld device is fast and powerful. It features all day battery life with the ability to swap batteries quickly. So it is ideal for high volume dispensaries or dispensaries where the check-in attendant may be moving around and is not sitting behind a stationary desk. 

The Panasonic FZ-N1 has WiFi and Bluetooth and available dual SIM cards for use in areas where wifi isn’t available, which also makes it an ideal scanner for dispensaries who do delivery – since it can be used anywhere. The camera is an 8-megapixel shooter to ensure quality scans every time. It also includes MRZ (machine recognizable zone) read capabilities. We highly recommend this device for front door or exterior customer ID scanning. Unfortunately, the FZ-N1 does not have UV or IR capabilities so the authentication abilities are not as robust as other options.

Thales AT9000

The AT9000 has been around for many years and has stood the test of time. It has survived 3 corporate buyouts from 3M to Gemalto and is now owned by Thales. It is a desktop device with full-page, full-color image capture. The camera has a 400 DPI resolution for good image capture quality. So if you are looking to import pictures from IDs into a customer profile this is a fantastic option. Many of our dispensary clients like to attach photos to profiles so their budtenders can easily greet customers by name. 

The AT9000 features a removable hood which is great for outdoor use. You can also place the identification anywhere on the glass and the software will automatically take a straight squared off image. This is very useful in high-traffic environments when speed is key. It is also great at scanning passports, which some other readers struggle with, which makes it an ideal option if you are a dispensary that receives a lot of international guests, or have customers using passports as their ID. One downside to the AT9000 is also having to flip the image to scan both sides of the ID thus creating an additional step for the user.

Thales CR5400

This top load, drop in identification desktop scanner is also very popular. It quickly reads both sides of the identification in just 2 seconds and auto ejects the ID once finished. Features include color-coded LED status lights, a 630 DPI camera for excellent quality images, and MRZ (Machine Readable Zones) capabilities. Additionally, the CR5400 captures images in UV and IR light making it an excellent device for authentication. The only issue we encounter with the CR5400 is the need for regular maintenance and cleaning due to its motorized ID ejection system.

E-Seek M500

This workhorse is the dual-sided ID scanning flagship. It includes full-color ID scans with its onboard 600 DPI camera and also features a magstripe reader. The motorized side load design offers quick and precise ID scanning. It’s so precise we use this scanner with our Age Restricted Vending System – this device simply has all the bells and whistles that will really allow you to verify IDs most accurately. 

The downside of the E-Seek M500 is that it is quite large. It takes up a lot of real estate and is a piece that will need a table to stand on. 

As you can see, there is a high-quality scanner for just about every need for the cannabis industry. Feel free to contact us and a professional expert will assist you in deciding which scanner is right for you.

Another blog you may like: 3 Reasons ID Scanning is Crucial for Successful Dispensary Operation

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