Coke Says It Won’t Put Machines In Dispensaries, Then Backtracks


Photo: Budbandit/Way Too Many

​Altitude Wellness Center in Denver thought a Coke machine in the lobby would be a great idea. Give cotton-mouthed customers a chance to wet their whistles, and perhaps make a dollar or two in the process? Win-win.

But when the center asked for a machine a few days ago, the Coca-Cola Company stiffly informed them it has a corporate policy against placing Coke machines in businesses that sell marijuana.
When AWC decided to go public with the rejection, Coca-Cola backed down, with a representative pledging to apologize, reports Michael Roberts at Denver Westword.
According to Melissa, daughter of AWC owner Roger (they asked that their last names not be used), an AWC rep called the local Coca-Cola distributor shortly after opening about a year and a half ago and requested a cooler to put in the business. Every month since then, the owners have bought between $200 and $300 worth of Cokes to give customers.

Graphic: Altitude Wellness Center

​But recently, they decided to swap the cooler for a pay machine. With that in mind, Melissa send the local Coca-Cola territory manager this email on March 11:
We are currently doing business with you and we have a cooler for our coke products. We are thinking about changing to a machine that you have to put money in — instead of helping yourself like we do today. Do you have that kind of dispensing unit available and if so can you give me prices?

Thank you

On March 14, the manager replied:
Hi Melissa,

Unfortunately, Coca-Cola has made an internal decision not to place equipment at Marijuana dispensaries. Although, you already have a piece of our equipment I am not able process a work order for a new machine. I do apologize for that. If you would like me schedule a pickup of the cooler please let me know. Thank you.

Now, this may seem a little persnickety, especially since Coca-Cola used to contain cocaine. In any event, AWC was unhappy with its rejection.
“We’re a nice family owned, family run dispensary,” Melissa said. “And Coca-Cola is sold in bars — it’s probably sold in strip clubs, too. So why would it be OK to be in there and not in a completely legal medical marijuana dispensary?”
So she sent another email asking if there were “other business sectore types that you do not place equipment in.”
After a noncommittal email reply was received, AWC contacted Westword. When the newspaper (owned by Village Voice Media, which also owns Toke of the Town), contacted the company, Michele McKillip, vice president of public affairs and communications for the Northwest region of Coca-Cola Refreshments, said Coke has no blanket policy forbidding the placement of machines in medical marijuana businesses — and that the company would apologize to AWC for implying otherwise.
“There was a miscommunication, which we’re seeking to resolve,” McKillip said. “Our products remain in this establishment, and we will be working with our customers to continue meeting their needs.”
“It’s very good news,” Melissa said, “but it’s frustrating to have to go through this with so many companies, from banks to credit card companies to Coke, when we’re a legitimate business.”