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Will Medical Marijuana Vending Machines Kill Local Sales?

Many buy their medical marijuana from dispensaries such as Laguna Niguel's Suite A, the only remaining outfit of its kind in south Orange County and on the street.

Scoring medical marijuana might have gotten a whole lot easier thanks to a new vending machine.

Aliso Viejo-based Dispense Labs, whose parent company is The Dispensary Group, recently unveiled "Autospense," a medical marijuana dispensing system that resembles a vending machine. 

But will the machine affect local sales at the only remaining medical marijuana dispensary left in south Orange County or give competition to local street dealers?

"Will these medical marijuana vending machines soon start replacing medical dispensaries and drug dealers? I wouldn't count them out just yet," said Tom Backgram, a Laguna Niguel resident who knows so-called drug dealers.

"If medical marijuana continues down the path that it is going in, I don't think local drug dealers or medical marijuana delivery service will have to worry. Every week cities are shutting down clinics. If they won't let a store stay why would they allow a vending machine that dispenses pot," Backgram said. "However, if cities start allowing medical marijuana clinics to start opening back up, I could see these machines spreading like wildfire."

Suite A is currently in a lawsuit with the city to be closed down because it violates the cities zoning code. Representatives did not return phone calls.

Medical marijuana has been allowed in California since voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996. However, the use of marijuana remains prohibited under federal law, and in 2005, the Supreme Court ruled those laws could be enforced in states allowing medical marijuana.

There is one active medical marijuana vending machine owned and operated by Dispense Labs in Santa Ana, but more could be added to the surrounding Orange County areas very soon. 

“It’s a very sophisticated dispensing system. We have spent $3 million in software development in tracking inventory, “ said Joe DeRobbio CEO of Dispense Labs. “We are the only system today in the industry that can track a (marijuana) seed to sell.”

After providing the proper documentation, a patient will be issued a membership card. The card allows the patient access into the cage where the machine is located. Patients must then enter their cards into the machine, have their finger scanned and receive a unique pin that allows them access to the machine, according to DeRobbio.

However, this is currently not the only medical marijuana vending machine on the market today. Medbox, founded in 2008, has its corporate headquarters in Los Angeles. It is claiming that Dispense Labs is infringing on its patent. The patent is designated for medical dispensing machines and software, according to the company’s website.

“We have looked at the patent, and we have sent a response to Medbox informing them that we are not infringing on their patent. I believe if we challenge the patent, we can break it, “ said DeRobbio. “We both process our machines differently.”

Blake Driver May 03, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Debbie: I think as long as people are having to places as far as Santa Ana to use the machine, it should take away from local business.
Debbie L. Sklar May 03, 2012 at 09:48 PM
@Blake: What's next booze in vending machines?
Barton Mac Leod May 03, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Debbie.. Perhaps order on E-Bay or Amazon
BackwardsThinker May 04, 2012 at 04:37 PM
Medbox = $20,000 to buy Autospense= $2,000/month lease Potential buyer/lessee= 0 guarantees If they offered a guarantee and assistance with where they can be located, sales would improve.
charles linden May 06, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Worst idea ever

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