New Vending Machines Would Sell Cannabis, Booze, and Meds

By Kelly Burch 05/16/17

Is the public ready to buy controlled substances from vending machines?

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marijuana vending machine

Vending machines have long been a way to get a quick hit of sugar from a can of soda or a candy bar, but a new type of vending machine dispenses much more controversial items, including alcohol, casino chips and marijuana.

The American Green Machine, designed by American Green, a medical-cannabis technology company, aims to dispense items that are controlled or have age restrictions. Customers would set up an account with government-issued identification, and a finger scan during each visit to the machine would ensure that the registered user is the one making the purchase.

The machine is currently in the prototype stage. American Green envisions that the machine could be used in a variety of places, including marijuana dispensaries where people might prefer a more anonymous approach, and casinos that don’t want to deal with cash.

Erik Altieri, executive director of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) told USA Today that the vending machine would be a good option for senior centers, where people may want access to medical cannabis but might be unable to drive to the dispensaries. Or, he added, the lack of face-to-face interactions may just make everyday consumers more at ease. "This could make individuals who need it more comfortable. They won't run into their pastor or kindergarten teacher outside a dispensary," he said.

While some people may be surprised at the idea of a vending machine dishing out controlled substances, American Green chairman and acting president David Gwyther said that the public is ready for the technology. “The adoption of smart phones, familiarity with apps on those phones, and improvement in related vending technologies have now merged with a concept that the public could easily grasp before but are much more prepared to use now,” he said in a release.

“Creating a process that allows flexibility in the machine selected by clients yet permitting verified accounts to login to the machines of any companies who choose to participate will grow adoption faster and simplify use by all parties,” he added. “A baseball fan could buy a beer at the game in New York and cannabis from a dispensary in California the next day through the same app utilizing their verified account. This is a huge step forward for smart retail and the automated sale of regulated products.”

People installing the machines and buying them would have to be mindful of the laws in the state that they are in. When it comes to marijuana sales, some state laws dictate that the drug can only be sold in dispensaries, while other states allow off-site sales.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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