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Portfolio: The Healing Center, San Diego

This dispensary features a high-volume atmosphere in a condensed package

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The Healing Center, a new medical marijuana dispensary in San Diego, is small but sleekly modern, its three rooms divided by clear glass walls.

An interesting design choice by Megan Stone, owner of The High Road Design Studio (Phoenix), to open up what could otherwise have been a dark and confining space.

But Stone was not being driven only by the aesthetics of store design. The glass is also bulletproof. San Diego regulations governing this still-evolving retail sector require that every exterior wall in a marijuana dispensary, every wall shared with a neighboring suite and any interior wall around a room in which an employee might be, all have to be impenetrable to gunfire.

“This is a huge security issue,” Stone explains. “Not only do these dispensaries contain large amounts of what the federal government still regards as an illegal substance, but they also contain a large amount of cash.”

Local zoning laws were another obstacle in this strictly regulated industry. The tiny space the owners were finally able to occupy is on the second floor of a medical building in San Diego’s Mission Valley neighborhood.

“The owners had wanted a high-volume space,” says Stone, “which was a challenge to do in 450 square feet.”

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They also requested “the Rolls Royce of dispensaries,” and that was easier to accomplish. A clean palette of gray and white dominates the space, while clear glass walls separate the three main areas: the check-in lobby, a small receptionist’s room and the showroom. An elegant wall of purple suede runs throughout the space, visually connecting everything.

“It’s also a great way to get color and texture,” says Stone. The brand’s signature purple hue was derived from the deep purple color found in one of the owner’s favorite strains of cannabis, a strain that’s also featured in a piece of artwork hanging in the lobby.

Stone was able to produce an open merchandising plan without security risk because, with the tight quarters, customers are always within arm’s length of a sales associate. And the evolving industry of pre-packaged edibles made for attractive wall displays, along with a variety of colorful marijuana flowers in glass jars.

California has a ballot initiative coming up in November that would legalize recreational marijuana for adults over 21, which would be a huge boon for the business. Nonetheless, Stone says, the facility, which opened in March, sees more than 100 patients a day.

“Nobody comes in and walks out without buying something,” she says. “In that sense, it’s a little bit like Starbucks.”

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