A Guide to Shelving for Cannabis Dispensaries: Back of the Shop

Posted by Robert Walthall on Fri, May, 10, 2019 @ 09:28 AM

A growing body of medical research has found that cannabis has a wide range of medical applications, helping patients deal with the side effects of cancer treatment to the ravages of Parkinson’s Disease. Society at large is beginning to come around. As it does, citizens are slowly but inexorably bringing state legislatures along with them, thirty three of fifty states and DC have legalized medical cannabis and momentum is building elsewhere as well. What are some of the back-of-shop storage considerations for dispensaries?


One thing dispensaries share in common with pharmacies: proper storage is vital. In fact, extra care must sometimes be taken, since in many of its forms, cannabis won’t have the same formulation or additives that render other drugs shelf-stable. To prevent loss of potency, mold growth, desiccation, and other problems, it’s especially important to have controls for temperature, humidity, light, and moisture.


If you get the impression that the patchwork of laws surrounding cannabis dispensaries is largely written on the fly, you’re not far off the mark. We mentioned this in our last post on back-of-house issues for dispensaries, but it bears repeating here. Because of the sometimes confusing legal landscape, and all that goes with it, it helps to have a knowledgeable attorney on speed dial to keep you on the right side of the law. Even though it may be legal under state law, cannabis is still a Schedule 1 controlled substance, meaning that you face a number of federal hurdles even if your state government is relatively hands-off.


There are, of course, follow-on effects of the compliance piece of this puzzle. Your dispensary needs a degree of flexibility to adapt to changing laws, and to be able to capitalize on new opportunities as they arise. For instance, some states haven’t formally legalized medicinal marijuana, but allow its use under limited circumstances. Alabama and Mississippi, for instance, allow its use to treat epilepsy, but not otherwise; other states, including Louisiana and West Virginia, allow for tinctures and infusions, but not any form that can be smoked. Other states allow vaping but not smoking. But as laws liberalize, which tends to happen over time, your back-of-house layout needs to be able to accommodate the storage and security needs of new products.


This should go without saying, but both the back and front of your shop need to be secure. That means security systems, and even armed guards in some locations (one of the occupational hazards of a cash business). However, inventory security is also important. Only the right employees should have access to stock on and off the sales floor, and all facets of your operation — from your display cases to your inventory management and POS systems — should be designed with security in mind.


One thing we would impart from our extensive experience outfitting pharmacies: workflow matters. While your front-of-house certainly needs attention (your clients will expect quick and knowledgeable service), having your back-of-house in order is what allows you to concentrate on that. As with a pharmacy, your receiving, inventory management, and dispensing all need to be on point. What’s more, like pharmacies, dispensaries’ product is subject to spoilage, damage, expiration, waste, and theft. The more thought and work put into your dispensary design and workflow, especially in the early going, the fewer headaches you’re likely to have day-to-day.

While dispensaries have a built-in advantage due to their head start over pharmacies on medicinal cannabis — something we’ll explore further in our next installment — that’s no excuse for complacency. Nor, however, should it be cause for panic. Even though there are some aspects of the medical marijuana industry that are terra incognito, there are still plenty of fundamentals that still apply. Shelving Design Systems has the experience to help with those, so you can address today’s challenges and take advantage of tomorrow’s opportunities.

Topics: shelving systems, retail shelving layout, Pharmacy floor plan