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Top ten innovative dispensary designs

Opening a dispensary in today’s rapidly growing cannabis economy isn’t for the faint of heart. Where rigid drug laws once restricted the market, the current pervasiveness of cannabis is driving the need for increasingly specialized branding strategies. As such, savvy dispensaries are pushing the creative envelope beyond the omnipresent  “Apple Store of weed” trend with thematic build outs tailored to specific clienteles. 

Listed below are a handful of the most inspired, eye-catching dispensary designs in the US.

Serra Flagship — Portland, OR

Serra, meaning “greenhouse” in Italian, elevates the concept of its namesake through the merging of glass, greenery, and simple geometry. Circular, avant-garde light fixtures dangle from 16-foot ceilings. A giant neon sign reading “Quality Drugs” is framed by a floor to ceiling vine trellis. A glass partition divides the reception area from the retail space without obstructing the natural light, imparting an overall sense of openness. 

Most strikingly, with the use of custom geometric tiling and triangular glass display cases, Serra has harnessed the subtly futuristic power of the polygon. The overarching greenhouse theme is more abstract than blatantly referential, giving an air of cool mystery that invites exploration.

Urbana on Geary — San Francisco, CA

The association of wood paneling with hippie-grandpa bachelor pads seldom makes room for its use outside kitschy bars and vintage shops. Against the odds, Urbana has dodged the grandpa vibe entirely with clean and modern floor-to-ceiling wooden details. 

Recessed shelving and cabinetry showcase an array of products with minimal clutter. Rolling display carts provide flexibility over an open floor. Customers can linger (pre-COVID) in a dedicated lounge area fitted with warm pendant lighting and a tasteful smattering of rustic embellishments. Pioneers in the open shelving concept, the Urbana designers have borrowed the coziest functions of day spa, coffee shop, and modern boutique decor to create an accessibly upscale retail environment.

Bud and Bloom — Santa Ana, CA

So, you’ve convinced your mom to try medical cannabis. Now you’re tasked with finding a retail setting that won’t freak her out. Bud and Bloom has just about everyone and their mom’s needs covered. They’ve merged contemporary design with industrial architecture to create a warm and universally welcoming space.

Floor to ceiling windows flood the building with natural light. Exposed brick and beams offset sophisticated furnishings while homespun details, such as hand-lettered chalkboard menus and cookie jars, pull the high-design elements back down to earth. Bud and Bloom’s community-building brand ethos is clearly reflected in their retail space.

Farma — Portland, OR

Farma’s design message can be best summed up as stylishly clinical. A large, green cross covered in live greenery leaps out from the bright white walls. Potted plants and fresh-cut flowers are carefully placed throughout an otherwise immaculate space, expanding on the green theme without veering too far into boho “jungalow” territory. Sleek walnut cabinetry and minimalist furnishings are adorned with the occasional tchotchke, hinting at coziness while clearly communicating that the products on display are meticulously curated natural medicines.

Discovery Bay Cannabis — Port Townsend, WA

Stationed alongside Highway 20, near historic Port Townsend, Discovery Bay Cannabis occupies one of three adjoined trolley cars. Within the colorful vintage exterior lies a surprisingly streamlined little pot shop. Save for a few potted plants, the decor is sparse. A long display case holds virtually all available product, leaving ample elbow room along the narrow walkway. A side entrance allows for easy wheelchair access. The shop’s location outside the commercial tourist district allows for modest pricing on quality products, making Discovery Bay Cannabis a popular choice for both tourists and locals.

Parlour Cannabis Shoppe — Portland, OR

Parlour centers its brand identity around two things: locally grown cannabis and detailed budtender-patient communication. The shop’s design concept falls somewhere between “speakeasy” and “old world apothecary.” Antique bookshelves and classic shop jars filled with cannabis flower line the walls. Bright white tiling, stylish wallpaper, and cheerful signage strike an uplifting contrast to the otherwise subdued, mahogany tones.

Smokin’ Gun Apothecary — Glendale, CO

Taking the speakeasy theme in an entirely different direction, Glendale’s Smokin’ Gun Apothecary riffs on Hollywood’s vision of the Wild West and celebrates the fun, rebellious side of cannabis while also acknowledging the suffering precipitated by its criminalization. The space functions as part recreational dispensary and part prohibition museum. A hidden, speakeasy-style door opens to a cavernous showroom. Cannabis products share the floor with local artwork and antiques and vibrant murals tell the story of cannabis prohibition and activism. The shop also offers a drive-up window.

Airfield Supply Company — San Jose, CA

You know what really gets you high? An airplane! You know where cannabis is grown? A field!  Though Airfield’s branding concept is steeped in aviation metaphors, all cheekiness is tempered with thoughtful execution. 

The spacious showroom floor is reminiscent of an mid-century airport lounge with runway striping directing patients to the reception area. New patients are given “boarding passes” offering product discounts, and cannabis grades are divided by class: Economy, Economy Plus, Business Class, and First Class. Strains are abbreviated into three-letter codes, similar to airport location identifiers. 

The decor is pleasantly understated, with only a few airplane parts hanging from the walls and a large picture window overlooking the shop’s onsite growing facility. Airfield Supply Company offers proof that elegant design needn’t always stem from an abstract idea. Even a dad joke can be translated into an engaging retail experience.

Barbary Coast — San Francisco, CA

Located in the heart of San Francisco’s former Red Light District, Barbary Coast recalls a bygone era of bustling jazz clubs, brothels, and dance halls. Originally built to cater to onsite smoking and vaping, the facility is fitted with all the latest in cannabis technology, from a quartz e-nail dab bar to a full combustion lounge.

Apart from a few bits of newfangled hardware, the ultra-modern techie trend currently swallowing San Francisco’s soul is conspicuously absent. The lounge is drenched in old-school panache. Chocolatey wood accents, plush Victorian settees, and scarlet-flocked velvet wallpaper work together to create a luxuriously lived-in atmosphere that pays tribute to the neighborhood’s golden age.

New England Treatment Access — Brookline, MA

Housed in the historic Brookline Savings Bank building, New England Treatment Access (NETA) is easily the most grandiose dispensary in the country. The bank motif is prominently featured throughout the shop’s aesthetic, to the extent that the uninitiated would need a bit of exploration before realizing they’d entered a dispensary. Originally designed in the Classical Revival style by Swiss-American architect Franz Joseph Untersee, the updated building has retained many of its most striking features. Gilded columns stretch toward a lofty turquoise ceiling. Natural light streams in from a domed skylight and high-arched windows. Product is stored in the original bank vault and displayed behind oak-veneer and glass cabinetry.

As Western Massachusetts’s first medical cannabis provider, NETA wanted to settle the controversy surrounding their opening with a dispensary Brookline could take pride in. The bold move to restore a beloved town landmark has paid off in four years of thriving business. 

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