Pot shop adds vending to the mix, hopes to market machines - Morgan Hill Times: Articles From Hollister

Pot shop adds vending to the mix, hopes to market machines

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Posted: Wednesday, February 8, 2012 2:42 pm

The embattled Purple Cross Rx medical marijuana dispensary on Bolsa Road - which this week was sued by the county in an effort to get it to close its doors for good - is hoping to expand its business model by marketing marijuana vending machines to pharmacies, medical facilities and dispensaries throughout California.

At least one county supervisor questioned the dispensary director's credibility, while a local pharmacist said his business would not consider placing a marijuana vending machine on site.

One such machine, called a Medicine Dispensing System, is on display in the local pot dispensary's lobby. The machines are not for sale, but will be placed in facilities at Purple Cross's expense, according to its director, Scott McPhail.

In order to use the machine, medical marijuana patients must be a member of a dispensary and obtain a card that looks like a debit card. After paying for credits on the card, the customer swipes it on the machine, puts their thumb on a reading device to confirm their identity, then is offered purchase options.

The touch-screen display shows their name and the balance left on their card, then have the option of selecting "medicine," "edibles," or "accessories" - such as Visine, smoking papers and lighters.

"We plan to market these Purple Cross Rx Med Box machines, with our locally-grown high-grade medicine," throughout the state, said McPhail. "We can offer safe, clean cannabis. We have many orders pending."

McPhail said the machines can be set to limit the amount and type of marijuana and other products that can be purchased, and they take a photo of each user for security purposes.

Purple Cross is the first to market the machines, which are made in Spain, to medical facilities, according to McPhail. The venture would expand the business model of the dispensary, which was threatened by a lawsuit by the city of Hollister before it vacated its downtown location more than a year ago and later moved to Los Banos, where it operated for a few months before closing its doors and re-opening in San Benito County.

The county has for months threatened to sue McPhail and Purple Cross, which they claim is operating illegally by claiming it is an agricultural business.

"They want a judge to stop me from dispensing because of the medical marijuana ban they instituted a couple months after I started operations," McPhail said.

Representatives of the San Benito County Counsel's Office could not be reached for comment prior to publication.

County Supervisor Anthony Botelho, however, responded by pronouncing, "You've got to be kidding me."

"For one thing, no respectful pharmacy is going to even entertain the idea," Botelho said. "Who's he trying to kid? This man has really no credibility as far as being a law-abiding citizen. And his interest is just to line his pockets as much as he can. And as soon as the county shuts him down, the better."

Stephen Rosati, a partner at Penny Wise Drug on San Benito Street, said his business "wouldn't be interested in it."

"We wouldn't have anything of that nature in here," he said.

Another supervisor reached this week about the matter, Jerry Muenzer, said he wanted to "refrain" from commenting on the latest revelation because he had not heard anything about the vending machines before being interviewed by The Pinnacle and that the county had been entrenched in legal action against the dispensary, which is technically a nonprofit organization.

"Because our decision and our action," he said, regarding the lawsuit, "was based on what had been going in other jurisdictions."

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