Interested Entrepreneurs Learn How to Use a Medical Marijuana Vending Machine
With reggae music playing through the speakers inside a meeting room at the Sheraton, nearly 100 people interested in the emerging medical marijuana market in Massachusetts gathered on Wednesday to find out more about the state laws—and how to use a pot vending machine.
Hosted by Dr. Bruce Bedrick, CEO of MedBox, a national medical marijuana dispensary support company that produces biometrically controlled machines, potential business owners sat in on a three-hour seminar to sift through the details of the Department of Public Health’s draft version of the industry regulations, and asked questions about the success of Bedrick’s operations in other states that have legalized the drug for medicinal use. Bedrick, wearing a green tie, described how the MedBox system uses fingerprint recognition, coupled with card verification, to dispense marijuana products from a vending machine to get it in the hands of qualifying patients.
Bedrick says 150 of the company’s machines are in use around the U.S. and Canada and that the machines offer “an extra layer of security” outside of the outlined provisions being proposed by state officials. “This system will give clients who are interested in opening up a dispensary in Massachusetts a higher score rating on their application when it comes time to apply [with officials],” he says.
On Friday, March 29, the Department of Public Health rolled out a preliminary set of regulations regarding the cultivation, sale, and use of medical marijuana in Massachusetts, and for the most part, Bedrick agreed officials had done an “incredible job” keeping in mind the needs of both patients, and interested business owners, when compiling the rules.
However, he did have a few qualms with the way the preliminary plan outlined the standards for cultivation and where patients could buy, but those restrictions are not yet final. “The cultivation aspect of this doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he says, adding that the state’s request that shop owners grow their own product risk going out of business if problems arise with the harvest.
Even though shops won’t likely start cropping up in Massachusetts until late in the year, it was those issues, and many others, that drew around 100 people to the first seminar at the hotel, with 200 more scheduled to attend additional meetings the same day.
An attendee by the name of Mike, who asked that his last name not be used, was specifically concerned about the federal repercussions from opening a marijuana dispensary in Massachusetts since the country-wide laws don’t recognize the drug as legal for medical use. “I have considered opening a shop and I have looked into it a lot, including working with a lawyer, but my biggest concern is the federal prosecution,” Mike says. “It scares me—I don’t want to go to jail, and the state can’t stop the feds.” Mike says he attended classes at the Oaksterdam University in California to learn more about the trade, from growing to distribution. Attending Wednesday’s seminar was a follow-up to his already growing interest.
To ease some concerns, Bedrick, who says he was driven to enter the holistic medical field after his mother died of cancer, told the audience that federal agents have not “harassed” any of the dispensaries housing his company’s machines and soliciting their services so far.
Boston resident Shaun Sequea wasn’t worried so much about the federal intervention as he was about how the dispensaries opening in his community would impact the crime rate. He says he was “definitely” at the seminar because of a vested interest in going into the business, but he wondered if opting into a vending machine-like product was the right move. “I think the vending machines are foolish. I would rather see strict regular inspections and [a] pharmacy set-up,” he says.
While most were there for the business, others just wanted to report their findings from the seminar back to members of their own community. Brockton School Committee member Andrew Robinson says it’s his responsibility as a public official to report back what he learned so that he can both alleviate, and raise, concerns about the industry. “I saw this as an opportunity to bring something back to the Brockton community—both positives and negatives. Some peoples’ concerns are legitimate while others are overblown. But we could be a target for one of these, and I want to know the potential impacts.”
But Bedrick, based on the first draft of rules put out by the DPH, told those at the seminar the potential for corruption wasn’t likely. He says to get through the application process alone, “Basically, you have to be really clean” … “you basically have to have your Boy Scout badge,” he said during the presentation.
Below is a guide showing how to use the MedBox system as demoed by Dr. Bruce Bedrick.
First, customers would enter the store and need to identify themselves using a finger-print recognition device.
Next, a special card, separate from the ones that will potentially be issued by the state, will have to be scanned to further prove the identity of the patient.
Once the patient was properly identified, they would walk with the store clerk into a secure area, where they could get access to the vending machine.
Once in the room, the clerk could select the product that the patient wanted, and have it drop from inside the machine for purchase.