Thinking Tech

A pipe dream? Vending machine dispenses marijuana

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Is 24 hour access to medical Cannabis with a swipe of a card a good idea?

Last Friday, which just happened to be sort of a holiday (4-20), a company called DispenseLabs unveiled Autospense, a vending machine that dispenses carefully measured doses of medical marijuana.

It's obviously not for everyone. The machine is outfitted with a host of high tech security features designed to prevent those who are simply pot enthusiasts from obtaining the controlled substance illegally. For instance, patients will be required to verify their identity by swiping a registration card and also cross reference that with a finger print scan before placing an order. It also records monetary transactions and manages inventory tracking within a heavily secured framework of cameras, locks and sensors. And to further ensure safe and legal use, the machines will only be installed inside pharmacy locations and kept in room that's monitored by a 24 hour security camera.

Beyond these security measures, the machine is designed to keep the herb fresh and potent. A touchscreen display interface allows authorized users to easily access the menu to find exactly the kind of medication they need.

"For storeowners, Autospense is an unsurpassed system, which offers a new, forward-thinking model of security, transparency, store efficiency, financial accountability and supply chain management," said Joe DeRobbio, founder and CEO of DispenseLabs. "For patients and the community, it provides a safe, legally compliant, legitimate, professional and accessible means to obtain medical marijuana."

But anything that has to do with recreational drugs doesn't work that easily, however. The company had one machine in operation in Santa Ana, California, which ironically, was recently shut down for operating illegally, Gawker reported.

Adding to their troubles is a lawsuit by Medbox, which also produces vending machines for medicinal cannabis. The company is suing Autospense for patent infringement and it appears there are more regulatory hurdles beyond ensuring secure access.

"The reality is that the federal government does not condone medical marijuana, they simply tolerate it as long as operators of medical marijuana outlets are not willful profiteers and can demonstrate some semblance of reasonable behavior," said Vincent Mehdizadeh, CEO and Founder of Prescription Vending Machines, Inc., a Subsidiary of Medbox, Inc. "The medical marijuana industry cannot legally justify 24-hour access to marijuana at this point in time and I will make it my mission to stop Dispense Labs before they make a mockery of our company's vital technology."

So naturally, this begs the question: Is this a good idea? Let me know what you think.

(via Press Release)

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Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure