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PHOENIX (CBS5) -
With the drop of a few coins, or a dollar bill, vending machines provide a plethora of products: a candy bar, a bag of chips, coffee, a sandwich, fingernail clippers, combs and toothpaste among them.
But medical marijuana?
Dr. Bruce Bedrick, CEO of Medbox Inc., said his company is using its technology to distribute medical marijuana.
"We provide technology that is patented for storage, inventory control and dispensing of pharmaceuticals," Bedrick said.
Medbox is similar to a vending machine. Bedrick said a patient would choose their medicine from a display, and staff would dispense the prescription from the machine and hand it to the client.
"It's completely safe. In fact, that's the point," Bedrick said.
He said patients would register at a dispensary by showing their state-issued medical marijuana card and a driver's license.
"They will receive a HIPAA compliant ID card, as well as we will take their fingerprint so that on follow-up visits to get their medicine, we can verify they are the actual patient," Bedrick said.
He said more than 150 dispensaries across the country and in Canada are using MedBox.
The company expects to have between 25 and 40 machines operating in Arizona within the next few months, Bedrick said.
That has some people worried about the lengths criminals might go to get their hands on one of these machines. Not to worry, Bedrick said.
"The dispensing systems weigh several times more than ATMs. They are bolted to the ground. They are armor-plated and they are not sitting on the outside of buildings. These are inside of buildings, inside of secured rooms," Bedrick said.
Bedrick said people should start seeing Medbox popping up in pharmacies and doctors' offices for other prescriptions as early as 2013.
Instead of waiting in line, patients would be able to access a computerized lock box and get their medicine.
The first Arizona medical marijuana dispensary opened over the weekend in Tucson.
Southern Arizona Integrated Therapies is in the process of pre-registering patients.
The business plans to start selling medical marijuana as early as Dec. 11, but a company spokesperson said they are not using Medbox.
Copyright 2012 CBS 5 (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.