• Gina Pujolas

Three Innovative Approaches To Improve Your Dispensary Design

Since the pandemic began at the start of 2020, the number of retail dispensaries across the United States have been rapidly increasing. With about 7,500 dispensaries across the country mid-2020 and perspectives and attitudes changing on the topic and use of cannabis (medically and recreationally), the number of retail storefronts is only expected to increase in the near future. Ohio alone currently has about 60 dispensaries and are expected to grow to about 130 dispensaries between all districts.


Tec Inc’s engineers are committed to expanding their knowledge as different opportunities and projects arise in the industry. Continuing our Cannabis Facilities MEP Engineering & Design considerations and suggestions, our third and final facility design tips are focused on cannabis retail dispensary storefronts.


Retail dispensaries, growing facilities, and processing/ extraction labs cover each variation of cannabis facility space in the current industry. Some environments may combine 1-2 of these aspects into one facility, for example a growing facility that also has an in-house processing area, or a dispensary that may contain actively growing plants for customers to view as they shop.



Our first innovative approach would be to combine a few of these elements into new dispensary design to allow for more access and aesthetic. Whatever the case may be, there are various regulations and codes that must be implemented into these unique spaces.


Codes and Regulations


In our previous blog posts on cultivation facilities and processing/ extraction labs, we learned that the NFPA 420 Fire Code is required in each of these spaces, both medical and recreational. This code includes requirements for inspecting, testing, and maintaining the growing, processing and extracting of cannabis in cannabis facilities. It is also meant to establish the knowledge, skills, and experience that is required to operate or manage the safety of these facilities. The NFPA 420 Fire Code is required in fire hazard plans for any cannabis facility, including retail dispensary storefronts.


When it comes to the necessary HVAC equipment required in dispensaries, if there is no on-site cannabis growing in the retail space, the facility doesn’t need additional HVAC systems than those that a normal retail space would require. If the dispensary included a growing room for consumer viewing or to have closer access, then the HVAC requirements would need to be reassessed. In states where cannabis is legalized, barriers between retail and consumption areas must be placed to separate the two areas to comply with local laws.


Safety Systems and Codes to Implement into Dispensary Plans


Tec’s engineers are experienced when it comes to implementing security and technology into unique projects. Taking another innovative approach to combining and implementing these elements will make or break the success or functionality of your cannabis dispensary.


Since cannabis is still not federally legal in all 50 states, many dispensaries cannot be fully insured, which exposes them to more theft and crime. To prevent this outcome, considering an experienced engineer that specializes in one of these areas can steer the safety and security of the space in the right direction.


Depending on the type of cannabis facility, the security regulations for cultivation facilities, processing labs, and dispensaries differ. Safety and security for retail dispensary locations should include a camera system, an alarm system, and an access control system that works the two elements together to protect your storefront.


Additionally, a designated security person or people should be always present within the dispensary to watch all employees and guests within and around the locked products in the store, because both internal and external theft are possible issues. Implementing a design that allows for security personnel space and technology within the dispensary can ensure there is a protective area for these personnel to check customers entering/exiting thoroughly and safely.


As for other safety systems, alarm systems for emergency situations are necessary to have in a dispensary. Alarms to keep products locked up and contained from all guests and employees, and alarms notifying of potential for chemical or hazardous materials in the air should be implemented.

Every dispensary whether it sells medical or recreational products is required to specifically have a silent security alarm signal (duress alarm), and a silent alarm signal (holdup alarm). Note The Security Equipment Act of 2021 when it comes to selecting technology.


Another thing to consider is the frequent use of cash in retail dispensary storefronts. Locked safes and secure product storage for different types of food and plant products will ensure less of a chance of theft. Consider crafting a cannabis dispensary security plan to implement into facility practices prior to making dispensary plans.


Considering the Consumer Experience


As the industry continues to grow and the consumer base expands, more people may have hesitations on entering or utilizing a dispensary because of the wavering legality on cannabis. Creating a positive consumer experience for those entering a dispensary may include how they shop (online/ order pick-up or in store) and what kind of technology they are interacting with in the retail store. Online order and pick-up may not be allowed in your state or municipality. This design approach should only be considered if allowed by state and local regulations.

Regardless of who is entering the storefront, the goal is to make the consumer’s experience simple, enjoyable, authentic, and maybe informative for those who want more information on the products or consumption process. Depending on the market of customers you want to attract, the design of the physical space of the dispensary is important to attracting the right market.


As far as the physical design of the dispensary goes, there are various layouts that can be implemented depending on customer flow, compliance regulations, inventory management, customer experience and staffing requirements. Assess your target market before designing and engineering a unique space with many regulations and codes to follow.



Contact Tec Inc Engineers for More Information


Additional resources on dispensaries in Ohio can be found here. For more information on cannabis facility engineering and design requirements, feel free to reach out to one of our engineers here.


We would be happy to assist you in planning the design of your next cannabis facility.

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