A Patient-Centered Space: How High Road Design Studio Addressed the Unique Needs of Texas’ First Medical Cannabis Dispensary
When Compassionate Cultivation approached interior designer Megan Stone and her award-winning team at High Road Design Studio with a request for a medical cannabis dispensary design that would meet the specific needs of patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy, Stone was excited—and more than a little nervous.
“This was definitely the first time a client was in need of design for a very specific condition like epilepsy,” says Stone, who founded High Road and has been creating spaces and consulting for medical and recreational cannabis companies since 2013. “In general, when we’re designing medical dispensaries, we’re very careful to pay attention to our audience; a lot of our design takes into account things like ability, mobility and accessibility. But this would be a departure from my typical modern, clean and streamlined sensibilities, and so the need to keep this more soft and warm and very residential, but still provide a professional setting, definitely presented a challenge.”
It was a challenge Stone was eager to accept, though, so she met with Compassionate Cultivation CEO Morris Denton and his team to create a plan based on the feedback Denton had compiled after meeting with patients, parents of kids with epilepsy and other family members. This research—although largely anecdotal, because this is the first time such a dispensary has been built solely for patients with epilepsy—proved to be invaluable for the designer.
“One of the most impactful things the Compassionate Cultivation team had heard in their discussions with people with epilepsy and their families was that every time they walk into a room, they immediately scan the environment for potential threats and ways that they could be harmed should they have a seizure,” Stone explains. “That was incredibly informative, and it really impacted our approach with this space.”
Compassionate Cultivation, which is the only Texas-based medical cannabis business among three licensed by the state, worked closely with Texas lawmakers, patients and advocacy groups, including the Texas Epilepsy Foundation, to ensure that patients can safely and legally access high-quality cannabis oil products under the Compassionate Use Act. This meant that when it came time to design a dispensary that would meet the unique needs of patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy, they paid extra attention to ensuring that the space those patients encountered would be compatible and comfortable.
“The only people coming into the store are going to be people who have this condition or whose lives are impacted by this condition, so it just made sense to make every effort possible to cater this environment to those clients,” Stone says. “Most of the time, when a patient arrives, they’re going to be the only patient, with the undivided one-on-one attention of the professional they’re meeting with, so we tried to keep all of that in mind.”
Located in the front corner of the farm building attached to the cultivation and processing facilities, the dispensary measures close to 350 square feet. Stone decided to design such an intimate space like an inviting living room. “Since these were going to be intimate conversations that were happening in this space, it didn’t sound like we needed to treat it like a high-traffic area at all,” Stone says. “We wanted to have it feel like a place where people could feel welcomed and at ease.”
Beyond that, patient needs dictated soft flooring surfaces, no sharp edges on the heavily upholstered and cushioned furniture, and no coffee tables with corners. Everything on the floor is circular; even the ottomans are soft-sided. Among other safety-minded features, the single-occupancy bathrooms don’t have locks on the doors—in case a patient experiences a seizure inside and needs assistance—there is a switch above the door handle that indicates whether it’s occupied or not.
“This exercise of really focusing this environment back on the patient was a nice change of pace for us,” Stone says. “A lot of projects I’ve been working on have been more geared toward markets that serve a huge variety of patients, and so being in a situation where I had to really focus on one set of physical needs has made me rethink my approach, and it’s an approach that I plan to incorporate going forward whenever I can.”