New Jersey Cannabis Legalization

It’s no secret that there’s a budding new industry on the horizon that is sparking big conversations. While many have high expectations, breaking into the cannabis world will likely be a joint effort if you’re ganja be successful.

Bad puns aside, the canna-business is entirely new and unique frontier, especially for those in the design community. Familiarizing ourselves with the AEC ABC’s of CBD and THC is going to take quite a bit of TLC.

The legalization of recreational cannabis use in the state of New Jersey has been an exciting topic of conversation for NJ natives. And our team at VISSI is no exception. Over the last few months, we have been researching, attending events, and asking questions. Here are our top takeaways for the future of the cannabis industry in architecture and design.

Everything You Weed To Know

We were fortunate to attend two incredible events surrounding this new industry for New Jersey: BCSJ’s “Canna-business” event and CCSNJ’s Cannabis Workshop. Both events were incredibly insightful. Here we learned just how convoluted this industry is going to be.

Cannabis is more than just a retail storefront selling marijuana products. That is the glamorous part. There are security buildings, warehouses, dispensaries, smoke shops and lounges, extraction facilities, testing labs, and so much more. Each requiring their own set of regulations and requirements that may vary by state.

At the BCSJ event in particular, one of the panelists, Faye Coleman, Cofounder and CEO of Pure Genesis, brought up a very interesting prediction. She explained that right now many are focusing on cannabis alone, but the more long-term and lucrative industry will likely be centered around a different part of the same plant: hemp. We have seen an influx of hemp-based products across a variety of markets from skin care to clothing to candles. And as Coleman predicts, this is likely just the beginning.

Another key takeaway came from CCSNJ’s Cannabis Workshop. The state of New Jersey is only granting 37 licenses for cultivators. Though the state will not limit the number of dispensaries, this is an important piece of information for those looking to get into cannabis cultivation.

Cannabis in Architecture, Engineering, and Construction

Our research has made it abundantly clear that these projects will not simply be a carbon copy of any old retail space. Right now, the state of New Jersey has outlined six different types of licenses that business can apply for:  Cannabis Grower license, Cannabis Processor license, Cannabis Wholesaler license, Cannabis Distributor license, Cannabis Retailer license, and Cannabis Delivery license. These different licenses also mean different building needs.

We are incredibly eager to get involved in any way that we can. We are prepared to guide clients through the very detailed process of getting into the cannabis business. But understanding how the legalization of the sale of recreational marijuana will impact our work as architects and designers is a vital first step. In conducting our own research, we came across a phenomenal publication in the New Jersey Law Journal by Lawrence P. Powers.

Entitled “NJ Building Code Requirements for Cannabis Facilities: Architects and Engineers Beware”, Powers highlights pivotal considerations for AEC professionals looking to get a head start on the state’s newest business venture. The suggestions include determining which International Building Code (IBC) use group classification most aligns with the project and then tailoring the design to meet the requirements for that use. This of course with special attention to “[T]he fire code, life safety and security considerations that are unique to cannabis-related facilities.” (Link to article)

Forward VISSIon

From what we have gathered, getting into the cannabis business is going to take a great deal of teamwork. Whether it’s designing a project from the ground up or reworking an existing space into something new, these projects will likely require a lot more attention to detail to avoid stop work orders, change orders, and violations notices. We are continuing to ask questions, attend webinars, and join cannabis communities like the Cannabis Connection.

From lighting and ceiling height to space planning and exterior, we plan on working directly with both the client and code officials to turn their cannabis facility vision into a reality. Or as the Cannabis Business Times put it, “[t]he earlier you involve your architect, the better.” (Link to article)

Looking for an architect to help get you started on your canna-business journey or have questions regarding this exciting new industry? We can help. Let's spark up a conversation about your cannabis project!