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Published: May 12, 2017 3 min read
Marijuana in bag
Stephen Stickler—Getty Images

The long list of strange things you can buy from a vending machine already includes cupcakes, raw meat, wine, gold, and underwear. Up next: marijuana.

USA Today reported that a Phoenix-based cannabis technology firm called American Green recently developed a vending machine prototype that will check a customer's ID using biometric verification and sell pot or other age-restricted items to anyone legally allowed to buy. which made its debut at a convention in Las Vegas last month and hasn't been approved for use anywhere yet,

The option is being presented as ideal for consumers hoping to get their hands on marijuana while avoiding face-to-face contact with a seller, or perhaps someone they know. The technology should make "individuals who need it more comfortable," because it would presumably rule out the possibility buyers would "run into their pastor or kindergarten teacher," Erik Altieri, executive director of the pro-marijuana group NORML, said to USA Today.

As surprising as it may sound, some vending machines already do sell marijuana. One machine, also operated by American Green, popped up in Seattle in 2015, and a marijuana dispensary in Vancouver introduced the first pot vending machine in Canada last year. But with these machines, there is always an employee on hand who will be checking ID before anyone can make a purchase.

By contrast, no human contact is required when buying pot through the new American Green Machine, as it's called. To use the machine, a customer would first have to set up an account using a government-issued ID and, if required, a prescription from a doctor. The machine then uses a fingerprint scan to verify the buyer before allowing a purchase.

Marijuana is only one of the many items that such a vending machine might sell. Casino chips, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, and even guns are listed among the other possibilities. American Green foresees a time when customers can purchase age-restricted goods at machines all over the country. "A baseball fan could buy a beer at the game in New York and cannabis from a dispensary in California the next day through the same app utilizing their verified account," David Gwyther, chairman and acting president at American Green, said in a press release earlier this year.

Now all we need is technology that will let you buy pot and cupcakes from the same vending machine.