Recreational Cannabis: The New Frontier

Modern commerce looks a lot different than it used to be. The legal cannabis industry is booming and behind every booming business is a building—a very exciting time for designers. As more and more people use cannabis recreationally, legally of course, it is crucial for dispensary owners to know the regulations needed for their stores. In fact, having a detailed security plan and specification is necessary in the early stages of licenses and approvals.

Safety and Security Planning in Dispensary Design

Naturally with any high-demand product—no pun intended—safety and security are a top priority. Legal cannabis sales in the state of New Jersey brought in over $100 million in the third quarter of 2022 alone. A pretty impressive number and with medicinal sales included the number jumps to nearly $200 million ( Most dispensaries are cash-only, making them a large target for theft, whether that’s an outsider coming in or employee. Though employee theft is more common than a break-in, it’s best to be as secure as possible.

Throughout the design phase it is extremely important for both the architect and the client to meet with a security consultant. They will tell the architect and client exactly where to place specific types of cameras, which areas should be restricted access, where to place separate exits and entrances for safe access, and how to keep your supplies and inventory safe. In fact, most states require you to have a restricted access plan in place.

Since legal cannabis is still a relatively new business in most states and still outlawed in others, dispensary design requirements vary by state. Though most states have similar requirements. There are certain security measures that often result in “noncompliant means of egress, [such as] deadbolted doors or electronically secured doors…but [if] the premises is a retail space, the space must allow for unfettered egress for occupants at all times” (AIA Trust, Guide To Marijuana Facilities Design). Designers will need to present multiple details, specifications, and diagrams showing the different types of lock systems and alarms.

Best Practices For Dispensary Security Design

Though requirements may vary depending on where the dispensary is located, here are some of the best practices for dispensary security design that we have found:

  • Public restrooms should be situated near entrances and away from any areas where cannabis products are stored
  • Anywhere that cannabis products are stored or where cultivation takes place should be free of windows so that the products cannot be viewed from outside
  • Designers should plan for wiring for cyber security options
  • Consider different levels of protection, “the building perimeter and additional layers are in place as you move inward through the building toward high-value assets. For example, separate vaults from other areas by using walls to create multiple barriers” (

Having a detailed security plan can show responsibility and an understanding of the risks that come along with opening a legal cannabis dispensary. In the approval and community building process, this could bode well for the future client. Taking these extra safety measures can make the neighborhood feel more at ease about having a “weed store” in their community. Cannabis spaces are meant to be safe, welcoming, and comfortable for everyone inside the facility and outside.  

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!