MEDICINAL CANNABIS CLUBS: Part Medical Office, Part Hospitality, All New Building Type
Though one of the country’s youngest vice industries, the medicinal cannabis industry appears to be on a fast-track towards public acceptance. Since the late 1990s, ‘cannabis buyer’s clubs’ have been opening up in states that have legalized or decriminalized cannabis use as a source of revenue and economic redevelopment.
Just how much is there to be made? Last year, the $200 million industry in Colorado generated $5.3 million off a 2.9% sales tax on medicinal cannabis (Martin, 2013). Some of the dispensaries see up to 500 people a day, charging roughly $1500-3500 per plant grown. “There are few enterprises that promise such a high profit margin for so little work” (Lenning, New opportunities, 2010). Unlike other vice industries, the cannabis industry’s benefits are more than just revenues; it also helps sick people in need. Cannabis is used to treat patients suffering from cancer, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, HIV, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis and other conditions, alleviating nausea, neuropathy, pain and insomnia, and stimulating appetite.
The construction of the many cannabis related businesses requires the use of professionals and contractors of several specialties; some are even beginning to specialize in it. “Professional services are increasingly in demand to build safe and to code” (Lenning, The Ripple Effect, 2010) and will subsequently create new business for the interior design industry.
Most dispensaries have a focus on product, not on environment, and therefore are lacking in aesthetics. A well designed, high-end, medi-spa dispensary will inherently speak to the quality of the product without explicitly advertising. Similar to casino design, these spaces should be part fantasy, with a focus on
lighting and textures, aimed at alleviating the negative stigmas attached to the industry. These spaces combine healthcare, hospitality, and retail design, incorporating many amenities like a large casino resort would. In the future, dispensaries should aim to incorporate social interaction and online/techonology-based services.
TETRA HEALTH COLLECTIVE: Creating a New Standard for Compassionate Care
Two doctors (who are medicinal cannabis advocates) wish to open up a high-end, medicinal cannabis dispensary and treatment center. Both doctors are dissatisfied with lack of professional dispensaries to send their patients to. Instead, they wish to create a compassionate care center for patients to purchase medicine and receive treatment and education on cannabis remedies in a well-appointed, hospitality-like, medi-spa setting. Tetra Health Collective’s goal is to create a new standard for interiors in the emerging vice industry of medicinal cannabis.
The site of this new business is 619 S. 6th Street, in what is currently the Philadelphia Athenaeum building. The building is beautiful and spacious, with large windows overlooking Washington Square. It is also in close proximty to several major hospitals and doctors offices. It is a symbolic new home for Philadelphia’s first cannabis dispensary as it is located a few blocks from where our country’s freedom was fought for. Tetra HC will create a model for new cannabis buinesses as this new industry fights for acceptance and recognition.
CONCEPT & DESIGN INTENT
In order to break free of social stigmas concerning cannabis use, this design aims instead to legitimize cannabis as a medicial remedy by taking inspiration from the pharmaceutical’s molecular chemical structure. At the molecular level, preconceived views of marijuana use are stripped away and visually its chemical structure appears the same as any other socially accepted medicine. This structured motif is used throughout the space in textiles, materials, and even in a custom lighting sculpture filling the building‘s large vertical spaces.
Tetra’s design seeks to provide patrons alternatives, balancing large, open social areas with smaller, more intimate private areas, allowing the user the abiltiy to interact with the space depending on their needs that day. This balance of large and small volumes also helps to separate the public areas from private and/or high security areas.
The existing subterranean vaults and basement will be used for growing in-house strains of cannabis and the storage of retail product such as flowers, edibles, concentrates and accessories. The first floor includes areas for reception, admissions, and a presentation space. The exterior space in the back of the building on this level offers private parking and a private entrance for members off the street, featuring lush landscaping. The second floor will take advantage of the existing spaces; rather than books, the existing members’ library will be used as retail space for medication and other product. The current reading room becomes an open-concept, socially interactive treatment space. This space may also be used for group classes or member events. The third floor houses the medical exam rooms, offices, and filing.
All entrances funnel visiitors towards the main staircase and the central reception area. This position (and a small security office off the lobby) help to control access to areas of the building restricted from public access. Key-card entrys and elevator levels also help to increase secruity in the building.
The reception features a custom made company sign, diplaying the Tetra H.C. Logo in laser cut steel, back-lit and color filtered to match the company’s brand colors.
The street entrance of the building opens into a long elliptical hallway to entice the visitor to walk towards the central reception. New members will be directed to the offices on the right for Admissions & ID card processing. Existing members can attend workshops in the multi-use space to the left.
The center of the hallway features a window into the vertical grow clone room below (similar to the grow room pictured above). A plaque on the edge explains the process and makes the collective’s practices and operations quite transparent to the public in hopes of promoting understanding & acceptance.
The many stories of this building are connected volumetrically by a custom made light sculpture. The sculpture is based on the molecular structuce of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the natural chemical compound that is the primary intoxicant found in marijuana. It is made of polished aluminum & frosted glass globes.
The buildilng was modernized by adopting Greek Revival classical orders, rather than the existing complex Corinthian order. The dark wood of the existing main staircase was saved, but updated with a streamlined glass and metal chanel railing system.
The Members Only Retail Dispensary on the second floor takes full advantage of the 25 feet of height. Large open shelving, almost invsible railings and glass flooring keep the space open, light, and airy. The doctors’ offices have an eagle’s eye view of the busiest room in the building. There is ample circulation room to deal with high volumes of patrons.
Cloned plants are also part of THC’s product line, and shevling with built in lighting is used to dipsplay new plants. Carts, stored under the mezzanine stairs, are used at the end of the night to tranfser plants back to the basement for storage via the employee elevator.
The massive retail space is designed with ease of use in mind. The space features several large, touch-screen monitors that catalog the dispensary’s products. Pateints can search for the product they want, find new strains to try, and view the item’s location on a map of the space.
The Treatment Lounge is a place for members to socialize with other member-patients, seek guideance from the nurse on products and treatment plans, or to even take in the occasional spa treatment. The lower level includes a small cafe with salads & sandwiches made off site. Amorphous cubbies are built into the wall near the small library for private reading nooks. Table side speakers can be picked up from the treatment assistants on duty to tune personal speakers into one of the 3 large TVs.
Upstairs, individual seating is available, or removeable drapes can be put up to break the area up into small treatment rooms for visitng spa services when needed. The dispensary is easily accessible from both levels if the member needs to purchase more medicine.
Artwork throughout the space is inspired by the medicinal cannabis industry. Bright, abstract paintings of flowers accent the Lecture Hall, and poster prints showing patients protesting for medicinal cannabis legislation line the second level of the Treatment Lounge.