Marijuana Vending Machines Provoke Heated Debate

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) — It’s a vending machine, but instead of dispensing soda or snacks, it dispenses marijuana. It’s right here in Southern California and police have taken notice.


It’s called the Autospense and it resembles a vending machine, a system that dispenses medical marijuana.


The Dispense Labs company does not supply the pot for the machine, but the founder says his system makes it safer to dispense marijuana.


Security measures include fingerprint recognition. Patients must also swipe a registration card, then enter a personal-identification number before being able to buy marijuana.


Autospense also keeps track of what’s sold, tracing the pot right from the start.


“All the way through the process, from vegetation to flowering to packaging, to inventory control, to boxing, to the individual stores,” said Joe DeRobbio, founder of Dispense Labs. “It mitigates the black market risk because now there’s no way to subvert the system.”


So far there’s only one machine. It’s being tested inside a Santa Ana business called The Dispensary Store, which supplies the marijuana for Autospense, a move the city says is illegal.


“We just go by what the state law has mandated. And they say we are legal to be able to provide medicine for our patients,” said Lera Nastri, The Dispensary Store managing director.


The store’s managing director says there is conflict when it comes to medicinal pot. It’s been allowed in California since 1996 — however, its use is prohibited under federal laws.


Santa Ana Police are cracking down on numerous dispensaries in the city, including this one. The business was cited Friday afternoon and has shut down for now.


“There is a complete ban on marijuana dispensaries in the city of Santa Ana through our municipal code,” said Santa Ana Corporal Anthony Bertagna.


Police say they visited seven pot dispensaries Friday afternoon. Three were brand new businesses, so they received warnings. Four others were cited. A first offense carries a fine of $100. Police say subsequent offenses could reach $500.


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