SEATTLE — A company that makes vending machines to dispense marijuana is one of dozens of firms and experts that have offered to help Washington state set up new rules now that the drug has been legalized.
But don’t expect any marijuana-vending machines in a company cafeteria or on a state ferry any time soon.
“The reality of the way the law reads, only a licensed retail outlet can sell marijuana. That pretty much prevents any corner vending machines,” said Mikhail Carpenter, spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board.
Medbox, a California company that makes automated dispensing machines for medicine, contacted the Liquor Control Board in December to offer its help creating a retail-marijuana program.
“I want to be completely clear that in Washington, these machines would be located behind a counter, inside a retail outlet, where it would be operated by a dedicated technician. There will be no direct-customer contact with the machine,” wrote Dr. Bruce Bedrick, Medbox CEO, to the Liquor Control Board.
Bedrick said his company was setting up offices in Washington and would work with the state to create “one of the safest and most reliable retail-marijuana programs in the nation.”
Medbox pharmaceutical-dispensing machines now operate in 130 locations, including medical-marijuana dispensaries, according to the company website. The machine dispenses a dose of medicine or other product after verifying a patient’s identity through a fingerprint and checking for a valid prescription.
The company highlighted its machines’ record-keeping ability as a way to document transactions and ensure the state receives its cut of taxes.
Medbox is one of dozens of companies that have contacted the state to offer its services as the Liquor Control Board wrestles with how to implement the new law, which went into effect Dec. 6.
The board has been charged with drafting rules and regulations over the next year to grow, process and sell marijuana. Staff is currently drafting a request to solicit formal plans for carrying out the legalization.
The Liquor Control Board this year got out of the state-licensed liquor business with voter approval of private liquor sales in November 2011. Now the board is trying to understand a product that has been approved for medical use in many states but is still illegal under federal drug laws.
“We have a lot of experience licensing and regulating. The particulars of marijuana is something we could use some input on,” said Carpenter.
The board has received more than 160 comments from the public on rules and restrictions for a marijuana-grower license. It will accept comments through Feb. 10. Similar rule-making is planned for processor and retail licenses.
Washington and Colorado in November became the first states to legalize possession of one ounce of marijuana for recreational use by people over 21.