The first Wellness Pantry debuted last month at the Residences at Downtown Doral, offering users more than 30 CBD products at the push of a few buttons. CBD water, CBD gummies, CBD tinctures, CBD chocolates, and even CBD lavender-scented bath bombs are some of the most popular selections, says Wellness Pantry founder Daniel Torres.
"We want to give communities access to quality CBD products in a fun and interactive way," Torres tells New Times. "Miami's home, and there's a lot of good tech talent here, so this is exactly where we want to be."
With its 43-inch touchscreen LED display, the Wellness Pantry looks more like a sleek ATM than the automated dollar-eating snack machines in office break rooms. Since CBD is only legal for people 18 years and older, the machine incorporates an age-verification program that uses facial recognition to ensure users match their IDs. Torres says the machine can stock up to 40 different products and up to 600 individual items. The machine is remotely operated and personnel are alerted when it runs low on inventory.
"I always tell people that it's the fanciest vending machine you'll ever see," says Torres, whose family owned a vending-machine company during his childhood in Puerto Rico. "Ever since my aunt sold the business I knew I wanted to do something with vending machines."
Torres says he's in talks with a national hotel chain looking to acquire his CBD vending machines at each of its South Florida outposts. He envisions the Wellness Pantry popping up not just in residential complexes and hotels, but also in public spaces with lots of foot traffic, such as Lincoln Road or Midtown.
"For a high-traffic mall, we'd stock that machine with a variety of products, such as pre-rolled smokables and raw flowers," Torres posits. "We would always want to work with a location to see what people are buying."
In 2018, then-President Donald Trump signed the Farm Bill, which allows states to authorize the sale and distribution of hemp extract. It's now legal in Florida for anyone over 18 to consume CBD or hemp products — so long as the concentration of THC doesn't exceed 0.3 percent.
In 2019, Torres started Cultiva Wellness, which bills itself as a "matchmaker for all your CBD needs." The following April, the company released its Cultiva App, which, in a Yelp-like fashion, connects retailers and manufacturers of CBD products to customers across the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and parts of Europe. There are more than 6,000 locations in South Florida, including the Baia Beach Club at the Mondrian, the Midtown Smoke Shop, and the gas station on 79th Street and Biscayne Boulevard.
"We vet every location and product on the app and have full compliance and due diligence on our end, but we're not exclusive," Torres says. "There's so much good product out there and the whole idea of the app is to help folks find them while allowing smaller shops to compete."
The Wellness Pantry is an extension of Torres' larger vision of increasing people's access to CBD products. In his own life, he says, he has witnessed how CBD has improved his elderly mother's quality of life.
"She's in her 70s and has severe arthritis, it came to the point that even the water hitting her hands doing dishes would hurt her," Torres recalls. "I sent her a CBD tincture and two days later she calls me and tells me she's pain-free."