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Designing A Medical Dispensary? Here’s What You Need To Know

You know the medical benefits of cannabis, and have seen many states open up licensing for medical dispensaries. And while we all get excited that medical dispensaries are a key to unlocking adult-use legalization, we really should consider the special needs and functions of a medical use dispensary in its own right. The medical use cannabis dispensary serves its community and people independent from recreational use locations. They should be planned and designed as a separate entity. Yes, they really are designed differently and yes the employee factor becomes premium.

A medical use dispensary is way more than a ‘weed-Walgreens’. This week we’re going to talk about the special features that are unique to a medical dispensary and ways you can incorporate compliance and comfort into a gorgeous space. We’ll talk about the caregiver role in your dispensary design and why we look to them for guidance in navigating the patient experience. Where should you increase your design budget?

Every state with an MMJ (medical marijuana) program has its own regulations for caregivers as far as what they can and cannot do as the primary patient advocate. In many cases, the caregiver is responsible for purchasing and administering medical cannabis to the patient. Caregivers may have many options when deciding where to shop, same as they do for pharmaceuticals. These are some of the factors that I consider important when designing a medical dispensary space.

  • How easy is the client journey process? Did I have to wait in line for order pickup?
  • Was the space safe, inviting and promoting wellness? Do I feel like a valued customer when I shop here for my patients?
  • Is there a great on-staff physician that can oversee treatment and make sure legal practices are being adhered to? How easy can we get an appointment?
  • Does the medical dispensary have all the products I need to give my patients the best care? Or do I have to make several stops to get everything needed?

We start with the customer experience first when designing, and our first step is aesthetics. From a style perspective, we avoid things like flashing lights, bright and contrasting patterns (like bold stripes), screen images that take up your full field of vision (like a huge tv screen) and even certain colors like primary candy apple red or cadet blue. All of these things can trigger an epileptic seizure in some patients. They’re also counter-intuitive to a calm and welcoming space.

That said, I also avoid all white. Patients with sight issues have a difficult time navigating a space that is too ethereal and lacking grounding objects and color. Neutrals are fine but they need to have value to them.

We also avoid high luster flooring, such as high polished concrete. Even if the surface is slip resistant, it can visually scare the hell out of customers that fear falling. High polish surfaces can also cause vertigo in many people. It’s best to select matte or even satin finishes. When designing for a medical dispensary, it is super important to always think ahead to avoid potential design disasters.

Patients and caregivers are both looking for a calming, professional space where they can feel heard, well cared for and safe.

Medical Consultation Room: Salvera Dispensary/High Road

The second step in designing for the medical customer experience is access. This is where your floor plan shines or dies. ADA compliance is always a must, but how are your consultation rooms set up? Where are they in relation to the secure check in? Is your waiting room comfortable? Are you expecting caregivers and patients to stare at a screen while they wait? Now special thoughts to caregivers- How easy is order pickup? Can they do a drive through window instead of waiting inside? Curbside? Delivery? Your plan needs to show not only where these functions will occur but also how your employees will fulfill orders, help customers and keep your front of house and back of house operating smoothly and efficiently. Vault design and fulfillment planning is key here and when done properly you should be able to pull and fill orders in minutes. Think of your local pharmacy and how the pharmacists and assistants know exactly where each product is. We model a lot of our fulfillment areas after pharmacies. Product bins are color coded and organized by product type/strain/dose.

Ever wonder what it actually costs to build and design a medical cannabis dispensary? Are you stuck on where you want to spend a little more and where to be more conservative? You can check out our amazing budget tool as a foundation of what expenses you will incur.

A few areas where I would recommend spending a little more~

  • High traffic items. This includes entry flooring, countertops and seating. Go for commercial , healthcare grade finishes. You do not want to have to replace flooring or seating groups due to poor durability or because the fixture couldnt withstand repeated heavy duty cleaning.
  • Lighting. Always a crucial element of a dispensary design, but even more so in medical cannabis. Making sure your products are lit but also the ambient and general lighting of the store is slightly brighter than normal. Watching bulb temperatures (they should not be too cold or too warm, ideal is 3500-4500 K.) Remember your customer may have vision impairment.
  • Custom display fixtures. Many online “ready made” fixtures are ok for the general population but to truly design for a caregiver and MMJ patient requires some customization. Your consultation area should be designed so a client in a wheelchair or chair can easily see the product and also feel comfortable. Consultations are lengthy, make your chairs a little wider. All client interacting pieces need to not only be stable, but look stable. Save the paperclip legs tables or tapered pin leg chairs for somewhere else. A great builder can fabricate just about anything we design.

Custom flower tables in the fabrication process; The Restoration Station

We are inspired by the important patient care that physicians and caregivers xtend to their patients. The improvement in quality of life for so many people depends on them and the dispensaries that swerve them. We strive to design beautiful, highly efficient and functional spaces that promote wellness in every community.