Cannabis legalization is sweeping the nation, but it remains taboo to much of the world. Many understand the unjust laws surrounding cannabis and the stigma that rose from the war on drugs, so cannabis is slowly reclaiming its place as medicine. For others, without guidance and education from the government, adapting to cannabis as part of legal society can be difficult.
Those who trust the government and allow federal guidelines to inform their decisions aren’t being educated as it relates to cannabis. Though some legislators support legalization and understand the healing power of cannabis, it’s usually at the state level that people are learning more and seeing the de-stigmatization of cannabis. At the federal level, cannabis remains a Schedule I drug.
Today, many cannabis businesses realize the government can’t be relied on for the task of education. They understand more now than ever that it’s not only the government, advocates, and patients that need to be educated about cannabis as a plant and as medicine. Businesses have learned they must also be a source of education and information for current and potential customers.
Technology is the primary method retailers are using to educate customers. Cannabis & Tech Today sat down with one business owner who understands a cannabis dispensary is where many repeat and first-time consumers collect information and make decisions.
Ricky Donnell Ross, a.k.a. Freeway Rick Ross, is launching Freeway Rick’s in Los Angeles, California, to help consumers make more informed choices. It will offer AI-powered kiosks that accept cryptocurrency payments in addition to traditional payment methods.
Opening soon in the Sunland area of LA is Freeway Rick’s, a 3,000 + square foot space dedicated to making the shopping experience one that serves the needs of the present and those of the future. Freeway Rick’s is focused on enhancing the customer experience through AI-powered technology that provides cannabis education and offers cashless payments through cryptocurrency.
Ross is best known for his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair that took place during Ronald Reagan’s administration at the height of the drug war. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1996 after being convicted of purchasing cocaine. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, he operated one of the most notorious “black market” drug empires of the 80s. In 2009, he won an appeal in federal court that led to his release.
To launch Freeway Rick’s, Ross is now working with a team of partners: Diedra Greenaway, Eric Hughes, and Scott Lambert. Ross describes the team as “a group of highly experienced professionals who bring a diverse range of skills and expertise to the company.”
Ross explained why each partner is a perfect fit for the dispensary. “Diedra is a highly experienced retail manager and plays a crucial role in ensuring the smooth and efficient operation of our store. Her impressive background in retail management brings a wealth of expertise to the table. Eric is a marketing expert responsible for developing and implementing effective strategies to promote our products and services.”
He added, “Scott has a strong financial acumen and manages the financial aspects of our business. His expertise in financial planning and analysis ensures that we make sound financial decisions and maintain a healthy bottom line.”
AI, Cashless Payments, and Education
Cashless, contactless payment technology is expanding across sectors. From self-checkout at the grocery store to ordering fast food via apps, the tech takeover has begun. The Dispense App, an e-commerce software company, uses the following example for kiosks as they relate to customer experience:
“After launching its in-store ordering kiosks in 2017, McDonald’s saw more than just happier customers. McDonald’s share price jumped a whopping 26%, outperforming initial market predictions. Fast forward to 2020 and kiosks proved more important than ever in efforts to social distance in the wake of COVID-19 while still operating brick-and-mortar stores”.
Moving in the right direction for change, Freeway Rick’s is offering cashless payment using cryptocurrency.
Ross noted, “Although cryptocurrency is not yet widely adopted in the cannabis industry due to regulatory challenges and uncertainties, we recognize its potential as a future form of payment. The current government regulations surrounding cannabis sales, coupled with the lack of clarity from financial institutions, pose difficulties for dispensaries to accept cryptocurrency at this time.”
Ross isn’t letting those difficulties slow him down. He added, “However, as cryptocurrency becomes more established and regulations evolve, we aim to stay ahead of the curve by offering this payment option to provide our customers with added convenience and flexibility”.
Taking tomorrow into consideration for the build happening today, Ross and his team understand that cannabis education is needed and that AI technology can help. Ross shares that their strategy and market approach will prioritize innovation. Through kiosks, customers will find products that best meet their needs.
Ross explained, “One of the ways that AI will play a crucial role is in enhancing customer engagement through smart, interactive touchscreen kiosks. These kiosks will assist customers in finding products that best meet their needs. AI, as a technology, is not directly addressed in most cannabis regulations. However, businesses in the cannabis industry can use AI tools and technologies to streamline operations, improve efficiency, and enhance customer experience”.
An important point Ross makes is that AI is not explicitly regulated in the cannabis industry, so businesses using AI have to navigate regulations related to privacy, data security, and marketing compliance.
Planning for the Future, Today, With Teachings From the Past
While business is very important to Ross, he wants to utilize AI for much more. What he is setting out to accomplish focuses on his journey of redemption and transformation.
He describes the need to utilize technology with a focus on positive change in the community, “The emphasis of these initiatives lies in community engagement and empowerment programs, which aim to give back and create opportunities for marginalized groups who have been impacted by cannabis-related policies.”
Freeway Rick’s mission as a cannabis entrepreneur is passionately described by Ross and his team, “We aim to provide a superior customer experience and an outstanding product selection that appeals to the needs of all consumers, and we will serve our community with compassion, integrity, and professionalism, utilizing the advancements of technology to help make this happen.”
This article first appeared in Volume 5 Issue 3 of Cannabis & Tech Today. Read the full issue here. Images courtesy of Rick Ross.