Company hopes to bring 30 marijuana-dispensing machines to San Diego

Machines would be protected by high-tech security

SAN DIEGO - They dispense snacks and movies, but vending machines in San Diego may soon be kicking out a different product -- marijuana.

Those medical marijuana dispensaries shut down during a crackdown in 2011 could soon reappear in San Diego, along with some high-tech help.

"It's armor-coated. Second, it's 800 pounds," said Bruce Bedrick, CEO of Medbox.

The Medbox system is a patented machine that resembles a vending machine with one big difference.

Medical marijuana patients swipe a prepaid card, press their fingerprint and browse for medicine.

Bedrick hopes to build up to 30 dispensaries containing the machines in San Diego.

Meanwhile, advocates are continuing their efforts to re-open the dispensaries that have been shut down across the city.

In a few weeks, with Mayor Bob Filner's backing, the San Diego City Council will consider an ordinance that would issue permits for dispensaries.

"Have we started taking deposits on ... locations ... yes, we have," said Bedrick.

Unlike machines that dispense movies or snacks, the major difference with the Medbox is security. The fingerprinting helps prevent fraud, and the software also validates prescriptions and dosage.   

10News reporter Michael Chen asked, "Isn't this inviting for thieves?"

"Actually, no. It's actually the opposite," said Bedrick.

In Medbox dispensaries, there are no large containers of medical marijuana that thieves could target, according to Bedrick.

Bedrick said by law, the machine must be placed behind a locked, secure door, which means an ATM-style haul away would be less likely.  

Ashley Graddy, who lives in North Park near the former site of a dispensary, said, "If that whole new system prevents robberies, then I would feel safer in this area."

"I think they key is for patients to get their medicine safely and securely, and if this a means for them to do that, then by all means, that's wonderful," said Eugene Davidovich, a medical marijuana advocate with Americans for Safe Access.

In the past four years, Bedrick said the 150 dispensaries nationwide and in Canada that use his machine have remained crime-free.

The Medbox dispensing machine costs about $50,000.

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