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How To Design Your Dispensary According to State Laws

Hi Sungrown Community!

Ever wonder what it’s like to juggle a bowling ball, a chain saw a feather and a flaming torch? I can only imagine it’s similar to learning dispensary interior design regulations. Just when a state (or municipality) releases its new and improved set of regs it seems repeals happen. Ever changing. Never boring.

Part of the joy of working virtually throughout the US is watching how emerging, freshly legal states morph their laws similarly to neighboring states. Or take a sharp left and do their own thing. You never really can 100% predict the regulations, but looking at a state from a political angle (the p-word, I know….) will definitely give you a huge hint. No naming calling here- but if you take a close look at our legal states, then group them by recent voting results, you will easily be able to figure out which states will allow a more natural, free shopping model and who is following a more locked up approach.

It should always be remembered that at any given time you can be subject to an inspection/search of property by the safety regulatory commission. It’s a good practice to make sure on a regular basis that you are compliant in every aspect of your operations.

Today, I will break down some of the most common regulations to help you gauge what is going on in your state and things you’ll need to consider when designing your medical or adult-use dispensary.

Waiting Rooms

So designated waiting rooms are necessary in many states.

1. In Oklahoma, Michigan, Illinois, Maine and a handful of other states, the waiting room needs to be completely separate from the main dispensary area with no view from the waiting room into the dispensary. It also must contain a secure ID check area. (Think like a doctor’s office with the sliding glass window.)

2. ID checks are mandatory in every legal state although in states like Colorado, California and Oregon a simple restaurant style host stand with a hand scanner will suffice.

3. In Maine and Utah, you cannot have any cannabis or cannabis related decor in the waiting room. A funny reasoning I heard recently was that we wouldn’t want the mailman to be subjected to seeing paraphernalia or literature while they are delivering. So “no” to the menu screen or merchandise on display in the waiting room.

4. How about the view? Other states have slightly more relaxed codes in that you can have vision or obscured vision into the main dispensary but there needs to be a door dividing the space that is to remain closed when not in use. Herbology in Michigan gets creative with a glass panel wall between the waiting room and main dispensary sales floor.

What’s the Dispensary Ratio Law?

So many questions swirl around ratios. The ratio law is basically how many customers to employees you have to have at any given time during their dispensary shopping experience.

If a state has a 1:1 ratio, each and every customer must be personally attended to by one budtender throughout the process. It does not need to be the same budtender, in fact many stores in states with this regulation manage it into zones:

1. The customer checks in, ID is scanned and they either wait in a plush waiting room, or (not ideal) they wait in line.

2. A budtender greets them and then leads them into the dispensary to assist them with selecting purchases.

3. The customer is then led to the secure cash wrap area for checkout where their order is ready.

4. The customer pays, takes their purchase and leaves through (usually) a separate exit.

This sounds like a lousy way to shop, but in many cases if the budtender is knowledgeable and personable, it can be very beneficial.

Other states that have been legal the longest usually have a more open shopping model, but ratios still exist.

Laws Governing Cannabis Delivery

Delivery has become a hot-button issue in the cannabis legislation debate. Customers love it and want to see more of it. Want to set up a delivery service for your brand? Not every legal state currently allows it.

Customers love and appreciate the ease of a great delivery service, especially when it also stands for a great cause we all can get behind. You know it’s International Women’s month, right? Sava is one of the greats in CA, with over half of their brands women owned, exceptional quality. Sava is also committed to helping end inequity, homophobia and racism in the cannabis industry.

Dispensary Laws for Displaying Products: In or Out?

This part can get a little confusing and complicated. If your state allows live products to be displayed, it likely has to be locked all the time.

Many clients do not want to deal with the constant issue of keys, carting products to the vault etc. and opt to display dummy products (empty packaging) instead. They may have a diffuser style bud bar where customers can smell and see, but not handle or touch. They make their selection and the order is weighed and bagged in the secure, designated employee only, fulfillment area. This is hands down the safest way to sell, but it does take the customer journey on a new path.

Wondering how you can excite and engage a customer with empty boxes? We are really great at this and generally follow four easy rules:

  1. Merchandise the hell out of it.
  2. Make the trip to the cash register a pleasurable one.
  3. Budtenders are key here. They need to be sales driven, extremely knowledgeable and personable to your ideal customer.
  4. Include impulse items that can be touched and handled by the customer in prime locations.

You don’t have to be a regulation expert to successfully design and open your dispensary, but you do need to be aligned with the right people. If you’re struggling with any of the above, get in touch with Sungrown Studio! We are experts at working within state and city guidelines to make your dispensary design work for you.