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Cannabis Dispensary Design Best Practices & Examples

Cannabis dispensary interior design has come a long way since the early days of marijuana legalization in Colorado and subsequent states, and as more money flows from the inevitable growth of the industry, dispensary owners are taking their designs to all new heights.

Gone are the days of shops that are hard to find and difficult to identify. Now, a whole new crop of designers and architects are catering to the marijuana business, helping dispensaries create a look and feel, develop their brand, and enhance their customer experience.

As a business owner, you want every customer who walks through the door to make a purchase and an overly designed, cluttered interior could end up being more of a distraction than a draw. "Cannabis retail owners should be prepared to be strategic about merchandising products, use digital resources to extend the store’s capacity, get creative with their store’s vibe, and blend digital and physical experiences when designing their dispensaries."

In this post, we dig deeper into these design best practices and shine the spotlight on a few examples of Colorado and California cannabis dispensaries that are doing design the right way.

Best Practice #1: Be Strategic About Merchandising

While customers expect big box retailers to have merchandise located throughout the interior for easy accessibility, the opposite is true for the rest of retail. When walking into a dispensary, customers want the same open aisles and clean, uncluttered surroundings as when they enter a sleek electronics store.

When designing their dispensary’s interior, retail owners should adopt a strategic approach in how they merchandise their dispensary. Instead of building end caps bursting with inventory, integrating products into the cashwrap or along the store’s perimeter adds to the beauty of the environment while also freeing up valuable floor space.

Silverpeak Apothecary - Aspen, CO

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Silverpeak likens their own design to a Sonoma winery and describes their feel as upscale, yet comfortable. With gorgeous natural accents, beautiful wood display cases and comfortable, bright lighting, Silverpeak is a place where people like to lounge around whether purchasing for recreational or medicinal purposes. They have comfortable chairs and a selection of literature and music to enjoy, which is made all the more easier by the placement of merchandise along the wall instead of on the sales floor.

SPARC - San Francisco, CA

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This medicinal non-profit marijuana collective turned adult-use retailer has been serving California since 2001 and is demonstrative of the effectiveness of minimalist design. They combine cement floors, steel shelving and glass lighting fixtures with small wooden boxes containing various product neatly placed behind the counter, leaving plenty of open space for customers to take their time exploring.

The Green Easy - Los Angeles, CA

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What’s nice about the design of The Green Easy is that it’s simple, clean, sleek and amounts to an efficient and pleasant customer experience within the environment. Characterized by glass and metal display cases that neatly display containers of product as well as smoking accessories – again, away from the sales floor - The Green Easy isn’t trying to be pretentious or over indulgent in what they present.

Best Practice #2: Digitally Extend Your Store’s Capacity

As discussed, strategically merchandising your dispensary keeps the sales floor from being overcrowded. One way to further help reduce the amount of physical product on display and streamline your sales floor is by using digital shelf space.

Interactive touchscreen menu kiosks, for example, are a perfect way to invite your customers to explore your entire inventory, including items that may not be in stock at your location but at another one a short distance away.

Good Chemistry - Aurora, CO

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What we like about Good Chemistry is that they blend the cultivation experience with the customer experience, by giving the shopper a glimpse into the growing processes. In addition to their transparency, Good Chemistry's design boasts beautiful wood floors, modern accents, and thoughtfully placed iPad stations for customers to browse menus and product information at their leisure.

Ajoya - Lakewood, CO

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The design choices at Ajoya make you feel like you're stepping into the future by bringing modern design to new heights with a primarily white décor, clear display cases, and retro stools off the main selling floor for customers to sit on while they peruse digital menus.

Best Practice #3: Get Creative With the Vibe

Even though retail owners have a lot of practical decisions to consider when designing their dispensary’s interior, that doesn’t mean there’s no room for creativity. Your dispensary is a brand after all, so the interior design should reflect the personality that is most authentic to your retail dispensary’s overall vision.

Using furniture, fixtures, decorations, even a theme to define your space can go a long way in defining your brand’s personality while also giving customers an unforgettable experience.

Native Roots - Colorado (various locations)

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Native Roots, one of Colorado’s most successful dispensary chains, boasts an industrial style design with wood floors and metal accents. Their custom graphic marijuana-themed wallpaper you see in their stores and packaging is proof that brand recognition is king and extremely effective.

Barbary Coast Dispensary - San Francisco, CA

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Reminiscent of old an speakeasy, with polished mahogany accents, old-style padded bar stools, and settees for guests to lounge on while they wait, Barbary Coast Dispensary is a step back in time. They aim to provide a warm atmosphere for customers to browse, get helpful recommendations, and relax and enjoy recreational cannabis. 

The Apothecarium - San Francisco, CA 

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Leather bound menus, marble countertops, Victorian-style wallpaper, and crystal chandeliers. The Apothecarium in San Francisco is all about class and high-style. Located in the Castro District of the city, The Apothecarium brings the old-town Victorian feel right into the experience, adding a touch of class and luxury to appeal to modern yet classic tastes.

Best Practice #4: Blend Digital & Physical Experiences

Despite concerns that online sales will mean the end of physical retail locations, consumers are definitely still shopping in brick-and-mortar stores. But they’re also blending the digital shopping experience with the physical. One study revealed that 83 percent of shoppers use their smartphones while in a physical retail store, mainly for the following tasks:

  • Comparing prices - 42 percent
  • Texting, checking email, talking and using other apps - 40 percent
  • Checking for promotions - 31 percent

These customers are craving the robust product information they can find online while in your store. As a retailer, you can capitalize on this by incorporating digital technologies that provide the same convenience and depth of information that your customers are accustomed to getting online. Dispensary digital signage and touchscreen menus are just a couple examples of ways you can blend the physical and digital worlds and take your cannabis retail design to the next level.

Bud & Bloom - Santa Ana, CA

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Characterized by modernity with a touch of masculinity, Bud & Bloom brings industrial chic to new levels. Pipes lining the ceilings, exposed brick, recovered wood, you name it, this dispensary is dripping with sophistication and high-style. iPad menus are integrated into an aesthetic highlighting white marble-top counters and products thoughtfully and sparingly displayed throughout the store.

By looking at these examples, we can see that Colorado is ahead of California’s nascent market when it comes to designing the recreational cannabis experience. But with opportunities presented by Canada’s new legalization status, and the passage of time, we can undoubtedly expect to see more awe-inspiring dispensary designs emerge.

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If you’re thinking of opening a cannabis retail store but aren’t sure what’s involved, download our e-book "How to Open a Cannabis Dispensary.” This comprehensive guide will clearly outline everything you need to know to launch a successful venture. Get your copy for free today!

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