Getting into the cannabis game? You’ll need a team.

Now that Minnesota has legalized recreational cannabis, we expect a number of new local businesses to crop up. Ventures could include cultivators (to grow cannabis), manufacturers (to create products containing cannabis) and retailers (to sell those products to the public).

As an architecture and interior design firm, Shelter is naturally interested in this budding commercial sector. We routinely partner with passionate entrepreneurs. We know that every startup faces an array of complex challenges. And we recognize that the recreational cannabis space will be especially tricky to enter, given its uncharted nature and the regulatory hurdles at play.

That’s why, if you want to get in the cannabis game, we recommend you have a team in your corner from the get-go. Assembling a lineup of experts early on will help you make sound business decisions and avoid costly setbacks. The particulars of each team should be customized to the specifics of your project and goals. Here at Shelter, we’ve been educating ourselves on the nuances of this industry. These are our thoughts on who may be needed on a cannabis design team:


Architects & interior designers

Like many young businesses that require a physical facility, you may want an architecture and design firm at the top of your team roster. Well before we design a beautiful, highly functional commercial space, we often assist with several foundational tasks.

  • Location scoping: We can help you evaluate sites and choose an ideal one, near your potential customers, that you can feasibly convert from its previous use and outfit to serve your needs.
  • Space planning:
Our insights about how a facility can be built or modified for maximum efficiency and productivity will be useful as you shop for a space — and after you’ve selected one.
  • Security planning:
Cannabis businesses present a plethora of security needs. For example: Federal laws prohibit purchasing marijuana with a credit card, so dispensaries will likely have a lot of cash (along with valuable products) on site. We can bake security measures into building designs to help foster a safe environment for staff and patrons.
  • Sustainability efforts:
Green design is part of Shelter’s DNA. We’re always thinking about how a business can leverage sustainable practices to minimize its environmental footprint.

We can also serve as something of a team captain, bringing in — and coordinating with — other players whose skill sets will be key to a successful cannabis business launch.

  • MEP engineers:
These experts design mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems — the arteries that enable a building to serve its intended purpose. You might need your facility to maintain adequate humidity levels, support closed-loop extraction systems and/or handle heavy electrical loads. Involving MEP consultants in site selection helps ensure you choose a capable space.
  • Structural engineers:
If you find a site you think will suit you — with significant modifications — these team members will weigh in and tell you if such changes are possible, safe, and compliant with building codes.
  • Equipment consultants:
The nature of a cannabis enterprise dictates the kinds of equipment required. Cultivators, for example, use growing and drying racks, specialty lighting, plant trimmers, and water treatment systems. Without early input from folks who sell (or are otherwise familiar with) such items, you might wind up in a workspace that can’t accommodate your gear.
  • Lab planner consultants:
To prepare or sell products for public consumption, you must meet stringent health and safety standards. Experts — in scientific laboratories and/or commercial kitchens — can help you create a compliant facility.
  • Building contractors:
As you consider sites, a builder can inform you about the costs and timing of any necessary construction.


In addition to the team members we can bring on board, there are others to seek out, too. In some cases, we may be able to point you to people who are well qualified to fill these roles.

  • Attorneys:
Minnesota’s cannabis industry is in its infancy, so laws and regulations are still taking shape. Legal expertise in this field will be crucial in navigating the twists and turns you’re certain to encounter.
  • State staffers:
Connections with people at Minnesota’s Office of Cannabis Management will help you understand license requirements and ensure you proceed with your plans according to the law.
  • Experienced peers:
Make room on your team for someone who’s “been there before.” People (perhaps in other states) who’ve already run a business like yours can share vital insights about what it takes to succeed.


At Shelter, we’re forging connections with established professionals who — drawing from a range of perspectives — can help new cannabis business owners open their doors and turn a profit. Want to hear more about what we’ve learned? Contact us. We’re eager to talk about this topic.


Pin this post

Related Posts

Sustainable design can serve your cannabis business

When budding cannabis entrepreneurs think green, they often have more than plants and profits in mind. As business owners prepare…

Read more

Cannabis retail building typologies

Cannabis retail design 101 The recent legalization of cannabis consumption and sales in Minnesota creates opportunities to transform the way…

Read more

Cannabis businesses will benefit from design expertise

Today, Minnesota joins 22 other states — plus the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories (Guam and the Northern…

Read more