Tempe company finds niche in medical marijuana market

Posted: Updated:

A Tempe-based company is working to find a niche in the market for legal marijuana. Stephen Shearin with American Green created an automated cannabis vending machine called Zazz.

"It's designed to be a safe and effective way to function as a fulfillment center," said Shearin.

Shearin says he originally designed the Zazz to be used at licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, but he hopes to expand its use.

"In time it's certainly in a recreational setting, when you're able to come in and out as long as you're of age and you're able to demonstrate to us and through our system that you are that person and of age. But yes, it will be in a recreational setting as well," said Shearin.

At first glance, the Zazz looks like a regular soda machine, but it's more sophisticated.

"We set up a level of security so that if there's any doubt of legitimacy to be purchasing, then no cannibas comes out. In medical states you have to have a medicinal card so it has to be in a medicinal dispensary and the people have to of course show proof that they should be there. Then we have a secondary level of security here with a driver's license," said Shearin.

Still, people like Leanne Johnson say marijuana machines are a bad idea.

"I'm not against medical marijuana. I would just like to see it stay regulated as it is in person, see the person, see the identification, and know their age," said Johnson.

Shearin emphasizes the Zazz is designed to go into places already controlled.

"It's not like Suzy and Jimmy can walk down the street and get their product out there. That's just not going to happen," said Shearin.

Marijuana machines aren't available in Arizona because the state's medical marijuana program isn't automated and can't track purchases. Shearin says he's monitoring the state's technology, and hopes to have a Zazz up and running in Arizona next year.

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.