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Marijuana, in vending machines?

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Will medical marijuana vending machines include a snack?

Medical marijuana could be a push of a button away if local officials in California permit broader use of vending machines to dispense prescriptions to eligible patients up to 24 hours a day.

The Huffington Posts's Aaron Sankin wrote a feature yesterday about how automated cannabis distribution is starting to take hold in some of the state's pot shops. There are already vending machines in operation at more than three dispensary locations in Los Angeles. The availability of the machines could expand dramatically if San Diego's city council loosens restrictions on where they may be located, Sankin noted.

Advocates said that vending machines would offer anonymity, conveniences, and lower prices to patients, according to sources interviewed by Huffington Post.

The question then becomes what's a good location for a pot vending machine? While the machines have safeguards to ensure that only qualified people can use them, physical security can't be ignored as a real concern. Pot is more valuable to would be criminals than cola and chips. The answer could come from other vending machines.

Students at Drexel University in Philadelphia are able to check out pricey Apple MacBooks at the school library to borrow for a five-hour limit, so there's some precedent on how to handle vending out potentially "hot" goods in public places. A pharmacy already has narcotics on hand, so pot vending machines aren't unfeasible.

It's worth asking whether wider cannabis distribution is a good idea, and how far away the pizza machines will be. It's also an ironic historical twist that some of the earliest vending machines sold illegal gin in London.

(image credit: Wikipedia Commons)

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— By on March 22, 2013, 9:03 AM PST

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure