Credit: Via Medbox, Inc Caption: Medbox MDS Medicine Storage Machine
America may be lagging behind other developed nations in the essential sector of innovative vending machines -- but perhaps not for long.

We may have movie dispensers, but the Japanese have long had street machines that distribute everything from the standard candy, cigarettes and drinks to magazines, clothing, produce, alcohol and fresh-cut flowers.

But have no fear. The U.S. is breaking ground in one area of dispensing devices: the cannabis machine.

The November elections legalized recreational marijuana use in Washington and Colorado. And now a California company has plans to adapt the vending machines it makes for medical marijuana groups so they can eventually be used by the general public.

Medbox (MDBX) marijuana dispensers are kept behind the counter at medical marijuana facilities -- where they can track sales, prevent theft and ensure those facilities comply with local laws. The current version of the machines, according to Medical Daily, "rely on a fingerprint scan that verifies the identity of the patient, which is linked with a prescription kept on file. The company also helps operators become licensed in states that have licensing laws."

Medbox, meanwhile, is preparing its vending machines for the launch of those newborn recreational pot industries in Washington and Colorado.

Washington’s State Liquor Control Board has a December 2013 deadline to set up a licensing system for the manufacture and sale of recreational marijuana -- before cannabis can be legally sold to adults.

Adults in Colorado, meanwhile, will be able to purchase recreational marijuana at licensed establishments starting in 2014. The state has assembled a task force, to come up with municipal, legal and business regulations for recreational marijuana stores.

"One day we envision these machines to be accessed, when it's allowed, 24 hours a day," Vincent Mehdizadeh, the founder of Medbox, 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."

Washington law will require any recreational marijuana to be sold inside a licensed retail story. A spokesperson for the state’s Liquor Control Board tells Newser that means any cannabis vending machines used by the public could be used inside one of those future stores, but not “on the street corner.”

In the meantime, taking into account that marijuana is still illegal under federal U.S. law, Mebox’s website notes the company "does not engage in the production, sale, or marketing of any products dispensed through our machines."

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