Bay Area cannabis dispensary designs "virtual budtender" amid pandemic

A cannabis dispensary in Vallejo is serving customers in a new and creative way during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The owner of the Vallejo Holistic Health Center, Greg Schoepp , designed and built a storefront that allows customers to get their orders without ever making physical contact with another person. They call this new way of doing business a  “virtual budtender.”

Ann Marie is a budtender at the VHHC. “It’s just like a bartender,” she explains. “They are fixing drinks and we are fixing pot.”

Cannabis dispensaries have been deemed essential businesses during the stay at home order. The VHHC continues to prepare orders for customers.

“The entire world is on edge so people tend to be more ornery than usual,” said Ann Marie. “We do have lines that wrap around the building at any given time of the day. At first we were taken orders via curbside and nobody was allowed inside. Now we only let a few people in at a time.”

Ahead of 420, where marijuana users celebrate pot, the VHHC is trying virtual budtenders to take care of the expected crush of customers while practicing social distancing.

Here’s how it works.

Customers stay out of the dispensary, and go to a storefront instead with 8 different windows. Customers order on a iPad, communicating with staff inside using Skype. Customers never make physical contact with employees, even when they pay.

“We actually have a 6-foot long basket we put the order and the money into,” said Ann Marie.

Customers seemed impressed. “I like that they’re coming out with this no touch way of shopping for them,” said customer Christopher Gifford. “It’s nice to still get what you need during these times.”