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Ganja on the go - EPICAN looking to open medical cannabis dispensing machines

Published:Friday | December 28, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Manager Ashlie Barrett shows how to use the membership card to purchase pre-packaged medicinal cannabis from of the vending machines which could be introduced shortly by EPICAN.
'Silver OG', a hybrid strain of medicinal cannabis is among the choices available from EPICAN.

Medicinal cannabis dispensing machines, which operate in much the same way as traditional candy or drink-vending machines, will be available at select locations as soon as EPICAN gets the necessary approval from the Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA).

While these cannabis dispensing machines will offer the convenience and choice selection as a drink-vending machine, the built-in security features will be a marked difference and will showcase the high technology being introduced by EPICAN.

One such machine is on display at the retail store in Market Place, Constant Spring Road, St Andrew, awaiting roll-out, and EPICAN's chief executive officer Karibe McKenzie explained that the technology behind its design took into account, and addressed, the potential risk of abuse.

According to McKenzie, "The CLA has never seen anything like it before so they are very excited and impressed because it not only uses the card that you receive but also your biometrics. Because we wouldn't want a situation where a kid could steal their parents' card and come to the machine and access it."

To prevent this, after receiving the necessary guidance and clearance from a doctor to use medical cannabis, patients may register with EPICAN to join the members' club, for which a card is issued. However, they must submit a thumbprint as part of the registration process. Each time they use the machine, the card as well as the thumb-print must be submitted in combination for the purchase to go through.

"So you can't lend it to your friend to buy for you. Won't work, and this is because we have to ensure that anyone we sell to is registered to use cannabis or cannabis-derived products. So it is consistent with our efforts to meet as well as exceed government's compliance requirements," McKenzie told The Sunday Gleaner.

Before making purchases, potential clients have the benefit of 'sampling' products by using a smell jar to fine-tune their choices, as well a feature which allows them a close-up view of the cannabis to inform their selection. Then there is the vape gun, another option for patients who make this their method of choice.

As a pioneer, EPICAN is taking its responsibility well beyond marketing of its products, with the marketing departing tracking the demographics of clients - age, sex, nationality, etc. McKenzie argued that this is data that could translate into invaluable market research.

"We get mostly locals, of course, being here in Kingston, but we do anticipate that once Montego Bay and Negril locations are open, who knows, tourists will probably outnumber Jamaicans," added McKenzie.

The Montego Bay outlet is slated for opening soon, subject to the approval of the CLA, which continues to be vigorous in its due-diligence protocol.

McKenzie explained: "We are just really waiting on licences from the CLA for that location, and hopefully by the end of January will open, but every location needs its own licence and that can take time."