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Business Owner: Cannabis Dispensary Design – How An Architectural Firm Can Help Move Licensees Through The Process

Realize the Possibilities. Design Your Reality. Influence Your Life & Community.



While delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Illinois plans to award 75 new dispensary licenses sometime in 2020. And within 180 days of that award, the licensee must find a physical storefront location to call home.

The intricacies and requirements within the application process highlight the importance of having an architectural partner on your team from the beginning. We don't just say this because we are an architectural firm...JP Architects, Ltd. knows what works from our previous experience and early involvement with dispensary design and the licensing process.




An Architectural Firm's Involvement in the Licensee's Submittal for Conditional License

In October of 2019 when Illinois began releasing information about the application, we had the privilege of providing design services for a consultancy whose focus is to help minority business owners complete application and obtain license. Through research, we gained an understanding into the law's requirements for floorplan, public access areas, limited access areas, restricted access areas, security, exterior entrance and exit, delivery areas, vault placement and specifications, secured storage, mechanical systems and ADA compliance - all must be addressed and included within a licensee's application for conditional license.

As the architectural partner, we coordinated with the licensee's subcontractors and produced complete and correct submission materials. Often, the state will request some changes to certain aspects of the application, and in this case, they did. JP Architects, Ltd. promptly addressed the requested clarifications.

So...this experience addresses the importance of having an architectural partner by your side during the submittal phase. But the submittal period is over, and now even more important for licensees is securing a knowledgeable architectural partner to help guide you to the finish line.

This is an image of the dispensary design we completed for a client.









The Architect's Roll After Award of Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization License

As stated previously, the licensee will have 180 days to find a storefront that fits their needs. But here's the good thing...since a floorplan is already drafted, the licensee can inform their real estate advisor of the SQFT necessary to achieve their program goals - making the search more laser-focused and efficient. Think of the building you're searching for as a 'shell' to accommodate SQFT needs. Remember with design...anything is possible.









Something to think about: An architect is capable of transforming any space into the licensee's dream dispensary as long as it contains the necessary SQFT to achieve program goals.



Once you find a location, the licensee's architectural partner enters the facility, takes measurements and begins design. Beyond the legal specifications from the State of Illinois, the space must account for local building and zoning requirements.





The more you know: A good architectural partner will research these to ensure what you want to do is legal and to include them within the construction documents to avoid future delays from the city.


But before we get into construction documents, let's stop for a moment and quickly discuss some elements a licensee should emphasize in their facility.



  1. Easy to navigate retail area

  2. Higher-end finishes that enhance the customer experience - basically not just blank space, where the customer lines up and leaves

  3. Parking considerations

  4. Properly filtered mechanical systems

  5. Vault placement and specifications

  6. Clear signage indicating public access, limited access and restricted access areas, as well as, product warnings and information



Back to the construction documents...an architectural partner drafts permit and bid ready construction documents for the licensee to submit to the city where the dispensary will be located. Once permit is issued, construction begins.



Pro-tip: If a licensee doesn't already have a general contractor in place, you'll use these documents to obtain accurate bids from multiple parties.



Moving forward...construction begins, and JP Architects, Ltd. stands by the licensee's side with our construction administration services to ensure the project stays on schedule and to conduct site visits to answer any questions.



The bottom line...as a potential new Illinois licensee, you've waited through delays and invested time and money to receive your Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization License. Design should not result in more delays. Selecting a good architectural partner -- like JP Architects, Ltd. -- can move you through the process without additional headaches.



Congratulations on being awarded your State of Illinois Conditional Adult Use Dispensing Organization License. Now let's talk about your specific dispensary and how we can help guide you to completion - 708.907.3651.


A little more information: 

We have two licensed architects on staff - both have previous medical and recreational marijuana dispensary design experience.


Until next time,

Jose R. Pareja, AIA


JP Architects, Ltd. was founded in 2015 by Jose R. Pareja, AIA. We specialize in and are passionate about residential design, commercial architecture and public sector planning / capital improvement projects. Located at 7250 College Dr., Palos Heights, IL 60463, we serve North and Central Illinois. We complete hundreds of projects per year and bring sound principles of design, resourcefulness, reliability, unmatched quality and enthusiasm to each project. JP Architects, Ltd. realizes the possibilities, designs your reality and influences your life and community.