A Paradigm Shift in Cannabis Dispensary Design

Something is happening. Are you paying attention?

Level Up mg magazine
Level Up mg magazine

So, here we are in the twenty-first century, in a global marketplace and an era where design impacts everything around us. And better yet, we are here talking about dispensary design. As in cannabis dispensaries: pot shops, collectives, and the like. I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell didn’t see this all coming five, ten, or thirty years ago.

“This” being legal cannabis. “This” being an open, public, professional dialogue about designing stores where people go to buy weed. “This” being a legitimate global industry born out of decades of lies about a plant, of propaganda about its effects, of stereotypes of its users, of underground societies, of black-market systems, of a drug war that has failed so miserably to do anything it set out to do.


This is an opportunity to erase the human error of cannabis prohibition. A plant that was unjustly removed from the pharmacopeia, and its benefits nearly erased from the memory of society. A plant that throughout human history has been a healing medicine, a spiritual vehicle, and even a sustainable building material. A plant that, when used properly, brings better health, a more conscious mindset, positive thinking, and a deeper connection to the world around us.

This is an opportunity to bring an ancient remedy back into our collective conscious; back into our bodies and minds. The same bodies and minds that are screaming at us, begging us to stop harming their chemistry with our pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, and overly processed and genetically modified foods.

This is a paradigm shift, a fundamental change in thinking. And every single person who has risked freedom, acceptance, reputation, and relationships, every single one of us who is playing a role in helping the cannabis plant and its users step out of the shadows of society and into a legitimate existence in our communities and our store environments and in this magazine today, is a hero—a hero.

By being cannabis retailers, you are the threshold to true social change and enlightenment.

You sell hope. You sell joy. You sell peace, purpose, and identity. You give people community.

You give people their health back, their quality of life back, and their integrity back. You save lives.

Cannabis isn’t like other products, other medicines, other substances, or other business models, and this is where we as dispensary operators and designers can seize a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Whether medical or adult-use, in highly regulated markets or in states of great acceptance, those with licenses backed by millions of dollars and boards of directors or mom and pop shops paying for everything with their own life savings, design and retail planning is now more than ever playing a role in how dispensaries are integrated into the community and how they thrive as successful businesses.

In five years’ time, I have played a bit of a role in making “dispensary design” a Google search term. I have dedicated my business and my life to reinventing the cannabis experience and redefining how society views cannabis users through dispensary design for retail brands across the United States. As such, I am unbelievably honored to be part of mg Magazine’s design issue.

That is right: There is so much to celebrate in the world of dispensary design that a whole issue now can be dedicated to achievements and trends. Dispensary owners are being educated about the power of design, and some have seen firsthand how brand identity, effective space planning, and visual merchandising impact customer behavior and loyalty. They want to learn more about construction, security design, and planning for privacy and discretion. They are digging deeper into consumer behavior, digital tools, and marketing strategies.

This is the biggest thing happening in retail today. If you don’t believe me, just Google it. There are more examples of successful, well-designed dispensaries than ever before in history. This design issue proves it.

We must continue to create a road to a deeper, more meaningful connection to cannabis. This is our opportunity to re-write history. So, pay attention. Something is happening, and we are just getting started.

Megan Stone is founder and owner of The High Road Design Studio. A disruptor, innovator, and entrepreneur, she has helped arm cannabis retailers with the power of design to combat stigma, overcome stereotypes, and reinvent people’s perceptions of cannabis and its users. Her award-winning work has helped usher dispensaries onto Main Street and into the mainstream, and has forever changed the international conversation about the retailing of “vice.”