Frequently Asked Questions About Cannabis Dispensary Construction

If cannabis is legal in my state, can I build a dispensary anywhere I want? 

Just because your state has legalized cannabis, that doesn’t mean that cannabis can be sold in every city and town. For example, when Michigan legalized cannabis, the majority of counties voted to prohibit cannabis dispensaries. It takes local municipalities time to catch up to a major change such as the legalization of cannabis. Most towns have been approving special use permits to allow a dispensary since this is simpler and less time consuming than changing the local zoning ordinance.  We recommend a quick call to the local town planning department. At Grow America Builders, we have an in-house zoning lawyer who does all of the due diligence and legwork for our clients to ensure that all intended uses of their cannabis facility are allowable.  

Where in my town can I build my dispensary?

The location of a new cannabis dispensary is typically regulated by the state, and those restrictions are usually very broad. For instance, in our home state of Illinois, the law states that no dispensary can be within 1,000 feet of a school or playground, or on publicly owned property. But local towns have the authority to create more restrictive rules such as restricting a dispensary from any and all business districts or prohibiting it altogether. Most towns don’t have zoning laws in place.  It’s imperative to do proper due diligence. 

How much does it cost to build a dispensary?

It’s the million-dollar question, no pun intended. Typically, a 3,500 square foot dispensary build-out in a pre-existing building can run anywhere from $350,000 to $750,000. The same size dispensary built from the ground up will fall between $950,000 to $1.5M.
The cost of a dispensary really depends on the type of dispensary you want to build. We have some clients who want quick customer turnaround with minimal window shopping and so they design a no-frills dispensary that encourages people to finish their transaction quickly. We have other clients who have heavy competition in the area and really want their cannabis dispensary to stand out with all the bells and whistles. And of course, we have some customers who want to build their flagship dispensary with us, which will launch their brand.

What size should my dispensary be?

There are a lot of variables. But the sweet spot seems to be around 3,500 to 5,000 square feet. This allows for an enclosed reception area, a couple of consultation rooms, an open sales floor with approximately 10 point of sale areas and kiosks, and a back of the house including a cannabis processing workroom, vault, break room, office and product receivables area.

How do I securely store the cannabis and cash at my dispensary?

All dispensaries must have a vault to store product and cash revenue. The vault is one of the most important aspects of a dispensary, and one of the main items that separates it from a typical retail store. State law will dictate the type of vault construction, but there are a few different ways to build a vault.

What are the different ways to build a vault to secure cash and cannabis?

The first and most costly method of vault construction is masonry with large CMU (Concrete Masonry Unit) blocks. The second method of vault construction, which is a little less expensive, but is also costly, is prefabricated panels made at a security company and erected on site. The advantage of prefabricated vaults is that they can be modified to be moved or increased in size if you want to expand the dispensary down the road. The final method of vault construction is heavy gauge metal studs with barrier mesh. This is the least expensive option and while not all states allow it, it does achieve maximum protection just like the other two. 

Will my dispensary smell like cannabis? 

Odor mitigation is a fast growing field within the cannabis industry but not every method works as well as they are marketed. While the smell of cannabis is far from foul, many business owners and landlords don’t want their adjacent stores smelling like cannabis. At Grow America Builders, we’ve spent many hours and met with many specialists to figure out the best ways to eliminate the odor. When done the right way with proper filtration system, the dispensary will be free of cannabis odor. 

How does the security work at a dispensary?

A dispensary has as much security as a bank, maybe even more. Every inch of a cannabis dispensary, both inside and out, must be under surveillance and linked to the state regulatory agency. A typical dispensary can have up to seventy cameras. Additionally, there are panic buttons at each point of sale counter. Interior doors are regulated with access control cards, with limited access or restricted access to certain areas of the dispensary. Also, many dispensaries employ armed security guards. Many are ex-military or retired law enforcement officers. We’ve complied a short list of top security companies who we use exclusively on our jobs. Read this post for more information about dispensary security.

Will my cannabis dispensary need a generator?

Yes, we highly recommend that all dispensaries be connected to a natural gas powered generator. Most state regulatory agencies require this, but even where not required we advise to connect to even a small generator that will keep the security and data equipment powered on through severe weather or foul play. This way, you’ll always have peace of mind.

How much should I budget for security at a dispensary?

A security budget for a 3,500 square foot dispensary could run upwards of $75,000 annually.

How long does it take to build a cannabis dispensary?

This depends on whether the construction is a renovation in an existing structure or if it’s new construction. Typically a dispensary renovation will take 12 weeks while new construction takes around 18 weeks.

What’s the best way to organize a cannabis dispensary sales floor (Point of Sale Counter versus Kiosks)? 

There’s no correct answer to this question. While kiosks are becoming more and more popular, we have seen our clients run into problems with them. An example: A customer could come inside, place their order on a tablet or kiosk, but while they’re waiting in line they could leave and not come back. But in the back of the house, the employees don’t know this so they’ve already assembled the product. On the other hand, kiosks and tablet orders are more efficient and allow customers who know what they want to order quickly.

How many POS (point-of sale) registers should my dispensary have?

This all depends on the sales floor layout that you want. But most typical is a straight or ‘L’ shaped counter with ten to fourteen point of sale registers.

When will I be able to start selling cannabis from my dispensary? 

After the construction is completed, there are two requirements that must be achieved prior to the grand opening of your brand new dispensary. First, the local building department must complete all inspections and provide you and/or your builder with a certificate of occupancy, which states that all work was performed correctly and complies with all applicable building codes. Second, the state regulatory agency must also complete their inspections and provide a certificate of approval to operate the dispensary. This inspection is focused on items which must be properly completed per state cannabis regulations, proper surveillance, adequate vault construction, security measures, etc.

Do you charge for a construction estimate for my new dispensary?

No. We provide itemized budgets, idea books, and our proprietary construction outline for no charge and with no commitment required. If you are looking to build a new dispensary, we provide free estimates.

Is there a difference between a medical cannabis dispensary and an adult use recreational dispensary? 

Yes, but not too significant. A medical dispensary is spaced out more like a medical office/pharmacy, and always has at least two private consultation rooms. These rooms are typically built with demising walls and acoustic caulk up to the roof joists to support maximum privacy, much like a doctor’s office. Even if your dispensary is strictly adult use, some dispensary owners still like to dedicate one room for consultation to new customers, but this room usually also doubles as a conference room.