You don’t see cigarette vending machines anymore; have you noticed?
They became illegal in New Mexico a few years ago, except for limited locations where teenagers cannot get to them. Lawmakers decided the way to prevent teenagers from buying cigarettes from vending machines is to eliminate the machines entirely. Cigarettes can only be purchased face to face from a person who can verify that the purchaser is legally of age.
I thought about this because of the new court ruling on gasoline pumps. What is a gas pump but a big vending machine? The ruling by the New Mexico Supreme Court says stores will be civilly liable if they sell gasoline to drunk drivers.
Meanwhile, somebody has invented a vending machine for beer.
One use for these machines is at special events such as football games, to speed up half-time sales so fans do not have to wait on line and miss the action. Because these will be used only at special events, the venue can hire an employee to check IDs before people are allowed to buy.
The machine not only dispenses the beer, it also opens the can, because an unopened full can could be thrown by an angry fan and hurt someone.
As a weapon, I don’t see any difference between an opened can filled with beer and one filled with a soft drink. But soft drinks at sports events are usually sold in paper or plastic cups. Maybe that’s why.
I don’t think we have any of these beer machines in New Mexico yet. Perhaps the state legislature should outlaw them before they show up.
A different report says an app has been developed that will verify the purchaser’s age and use facial recognition to confirm that the identity information matches the person standing in front of the machine. With this app, beer machines could be anywhere and could also dispense wine and pre-mixed cocktails. Or anything else, for that matter, in the right shaped container. Canned cannabis, for example, which is also not recommended before driving.
But we have not heard of any device to verify whether a purchaser at a vending machine is drunk or high.
This court decision claims that selling gasoline to a drunk is not so different from a bartender selling liquor to a drunk. But that is questionable at best. A bartender selling liquor is a face-to-face transaction in which the bartender can observe the customer. Most gasoline purchases are made at outdoor self-service pumps.
Under New Mexico’s brand-new liquor law, it is still legal to sell alcoholic beverages in convenience stores, except in McKinley County, where only beer is legal. Like bartenders, clerks have the dual responsibility of checking the purchaser’s age and assessing whether the purchaser is drunk.
I am all in favor of getting drunk drivers off the road. But it’s just as important to protect the safety of the clerks.
New Mexico has done a good job enacting a law to protect convenience store clerks from being injured or killed, especially those working alone at night. It took the murders of several clerks over a period of years to get that law enacted.
I can’t imagine how the clerk inside the store would be able to tell whether a person outside at the gas pump is drunk.
But, just for argument’s sake, let’s assume the clerk can tell. What next?
What happens if the clerk flips a switch to cut off the gasoline, and now the driver can’t get home and it’s almost midnight? How can that be handled without compromising the safety of the clerk?
I don’t think that’s going to happen. It’s possible this new court decision might not save any lives. It could just cause lawsuits.
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