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Setting Up A Dispensary

Cannabis dispensaries continue to pop-up across Canada and the United States; this new legal & regulated industry is booming right now and will continue to grow for some time. If you are considering setting up a dispensary, but have no retail experience, this guide will help you with the basics.

Take away any perceived controversy and cannabis dispensaries are, after all, just retail shops. Aside from a few specialty cannabis displays like pipe standsvape stands and aroma orb display jars, a dispensary is setup very much like a retail store. There are very unique federal regulations for cannabis retail that make it not like a retail store – No cannabis merchandise can be accessed by customers. All stock must be locked up and must be moved into a secure storage room each night.

The first step to setting up a dispensary is to find a location that fits within your city or town’s bylaws. Bylaws and provincial regulation can differ – for example some provinces do not allow a dispensary within 150m from a school. Once you’ve found an appropriate location, you’ll need to set up a floor plan for your store. Take a look at the space’s layout – large open areas are best for security and for customizing your fixture configuration.

Displaying Product

Displaying the product is key. Since you are displaying a regulated substance, you’ll need lockable, clear display cases. For high margin, higher price point items, glass display counters are perfect. You can find a plethora of glass display case options here, including lit and frameless glass displays. Customers will want to see (and sometimes smell) your product – sniff jars can be an excellent way to provide both – so make sure that they are properly labelled to limit confusion. Lit, locked display cases with a few sample sniff jars (clearly labelled to match the cannabis in the locked display) makes shopping an easy and enjoyable experience for your customer.

Any display cases or sniff jars with cannabis product must be moved into a secure storage room each night. Ensure that all displays are easily mobile and small enough to move from the front end display area through any doors or corridors into the secure storage room.  Keep the method of security of the display secure enough to prevent customers from removing, yet easy enough for staff to unlock or remove the displays to the secure room at the end of each day.  Also check Provincial regulations for the number of sniff jars that can be displayed in the front end retail space.

Other Larger Fixtures

In regards to other items, such as cash stands and wraps, countertop displays, and signage, setting up your shop is very much like any retail store. Don’t rely on landlord building plans. Make sure to measure your space and create a layout plan.  Consider how cannabis product will be ordered and handed to the customer from the secure storage room. Ensure both your customer flow and staff movement between the customer and the storage room is unimpeded by bigger items like cash stands and store fixtures.


There is a tremendous opportunity to generate substantial revenue selling cannabis accessories.  Bongs, pipes, vaporizers, grinders, torches, papers and more will increase your average order value, supplement revenue, and make your store look the complete source for your clientele.  Make sure your layout isn’t too cluttered or crowded – a good way to manage this is with a VersaMax or Swirl Line shelves and racks. Slat wall is another way to minimize clutter, while easily organizing and reorganizing your products.


Packaging is a big part of any dispensary.  As an upsell accessory, there are many cannabis packaging products available including child proof opaque bags, pop top bottles, reverse cap bottles, grinder bottles, blunt tubes, glass jars and more. Don’t forget to display these for retail, even if you already provide your own packaging with your product.

Loss Prevention

Even with locked display cases, you’re going to have some accessories that are not secured. Make sure to create a space that minimizes loss prevention. Learn about loss prevention in more detail here. In short, you’ll need to make all of your products visible from the main cash counter. You can do this by using a smart, open layout, and for blind areas, use mirrors, cameras or even fake cameras. Use safety policies regarding hoodies, sunglasses and backpacks, and clearly post that signage on the front door and throughout the store. To maintain visibility at the cash counter when busy, use stanchions and floor markers to smartly queue your customers.

For additional information such as consistent signage, merchandising and layouts, see our other Tips for Retailers articles.