Now that Colorado and Washington have legalized marijuana, entrepreneurs are embarking on what is being called "the green rush." NBC's Pete Williams reports.
If a California company has its way, recreational marijuana users in Colorado and Washington state will one day be able to get their pot out of vending machines.
Such machines are already in use in some states where medical marijuana is legal, but now the maker’s founder says the company is working to adapt the machines to comply with new laws in Colorado and Washington, where adults can legally use marijuana for recreation.
The vending machines for medicine require a fingerprint scan to verify the identification of the patient, which is then linked to a prescription on file.
But as Washington and Colorado figure out how to create a legal pot market for the masses, Hollywood-based Medbox, a public company, is offering up its expertise in convenient delivery systems.
"One day we envision these machines to be accessed, when it's allowed, 24 hours a day," Vincent Mehdizadeh, the founder and chief consultant of a subsidiary of Medbox that produces, installs and consults on the vending business, told NBC News. "One day in the future that may happen, but for now these machines sit behind the counter as an inventory control and compliance tool."
He said the Medbox machines and consultancy are in high demand in states such as Arizona, Massachusetts and Connecticut that have published medical marijuana regulations. Dispensaries use them to keep marijuana from being pilfered and comply with laws.
Medbox is now offering to work with Washington and Colorado officials who are mobilizing to create the framework for a legal marijuana industry - and to collect taxes on pot sales.
"These machines behind the counter act an inventory control and taxation tracking tool so that the states can effectively track the taxes and collect on them more efficiently with real-time reporting directly from the machine to the state database," Mehdizadeh said.
The company also helps operators get licensed in states that have licensing programs.
"We've probably been the most successful consulting firm in the marijuana business," he said.
Mikhail Carpenter, spokesman for Washington’s Liquor Control Board, said Medbox has been in contact with the state but at this point no outside vendors have been chosen to help with marijuana sales.
Under state law, marijuana and marijuana-infused products, Carpenter said, would have to be sold from inside the confines of a retail outlet.
“So I can’t imagine with the way the law is written that you would see vending machines on the street corner,” Carpenter told NBC News.
In November, Washington and Colorado voters passed initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Those laws went into effect last month.
In Washington state, voter-approved Initiative 502 made it legal for anyone 21 or over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana, 16 ounces of “solid marijuana-infused product” (pot brownies and such) or 72 ounces of “marijuana-infused liquid.
Washington’s Liquor Control Board has until Dec. 1 to develop rules for implementation of its new recreational marijuana law.
Colorado, under Amendment 64 to the state Constitution, legalized not only recreational use, but also home growing, which is still illegal in Washington.
Growing, selling and possessing marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and the federal government is reviewing options in both Washington and Colorado.
President Barack Obama last month weighed in on the issue, telling ABC’s Barbara Walters the federal government has more important things to do than go after recreational marijuana users.
“We have bigger fish to fry,” he told Walters.
Two Colorado University students are facing multiple felony charges after campus police say they fed marijuana-laced brownies to their unsuspecting classmates and professor. KUSA's Nick McGurk reports.
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