For the uninitiated, marijuana dispensaries may not immediately call to mind visions of innovative art and design. But step into some of Illinois’ cannabis dispensaries, and that’s sure to change.
Sleek, modern and well-designed, these medical cannabis dispensaries bear little resemblance to the familiar heady aesthetic typically associated with cannabis culture.
Illinois dispensaries began opening in November 2015, though the first year of operation was largely marked by political hostility, low patient numbers and reluctance from medical professionals.
Advocates pushed Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to add conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain and sleep disorders to the program, but the governor declined to do so. PTSD was finally approved after a Cook County judge ordered the state to authorize the condition, as the Chicago Tribune reported. Rauner also approved a measure in 2016 to extend the state’s medical marijuana program to 2020.
Patient numbers have seen steady growth in recent months. As of Feb. 1, 2017, the state had licensed 51 medical cannabis dispensaries and approved approximately 15,900 qualifying patients — over 10,000 more patients than had been approved one year earlier, according to state data.
Some industry members say the high quality of Illinois cannabis dispensaries may be attributed, in part, to the restrictive nature and slow rollout of the state’s program.
“I’ll tell you what, more states are going to follow the medical marijuana model Illinois has adopted than Colorado’s system,” Zach Marburger, chief information officer at medical cannabis cultivator Cresco Labs, told Extract in March 2016. “Operators here are as good as it gets — there are lots of shady characters out West.”
Illinois’ nascent medical cannabis industry is all about building legitimacy and normalizing this plant-based medicine. That’s evidenced by everything from the high-quality cannabis behind dispensary counters — which is required to undergo rigorous testing for pesticides, bacteria and mold —to the dispensaries’ experienced staff members, sophisticated websites, and innovative artwork and design features.
State law prevents the general public from entering restricted areas inside medical cannabis dispensaries, so here’s a special peek at some of the coolest, most thoughtful art and design features from dispensaries across Illinois.
(*See full photo gallery at end of post)
Modern Cannabis (MOCA)
Location: 2847 W Fullerton Ave, Chicago, IL 60647
With its clean lines, exposed brick walls and neon color scheme, the layout and design of Modern Cannabis (MOCA) dispensary certainly live up to its name. Co-owners Danny and Doug Marks, who also own Emporium Arcade Bar, opened the Logan Square dispensary with pharmacy owner Barry Golin in February 2016. Cannabis-themed artwork by Mosher compliments the dispensary’s bold, modern aesthetic.
Midwest Compassion Center
Location: 1335 Lakeside Dr, Romeoville, IL 60446
Healthcare entrepreneur Nicole van Rensburg opened Midwest Compassion Center with her brother, William Hollander, in the spring of 2016 with a mission of providing “a welcoming, safe and professional center” that patients can count on for quality medical cannabis.
The dispensary prioritizes patient education, advocacy and community service, themes that are evident throughout its interior artwork and design features. Chicago-based studio Curioso designed Midwest Compassion Center’s interior space and provided creative direction for the artwork.
Location: 7955 W Grand Ave, Elmwood Park, IL 60707
FloraMedex’s interior was designed to create an aesthetically pleasing and unique historical ambience, while prioritizing sustainability and environmental friendliness, according to Jared Boyar, agent in charge of the Elmwood Park dispensary. The building is LEED certified for environmental sustainability.
“Our building was built during the Industrial Revolution, originally used as a millwork, then as a tool and dye shop, so our design focus was centered around a sense of historicity and Americana culture. Old buildings provide a sense of patriotism, feelings of warmth and hominess, reminding us all of our history and heritage, so, we made the decision to preserve as much of the original construction and intrinsic value as possible,” Boyar told Extract.
Curioso studio provided interior design services and artistic direction for this project, and led FloraMedex’s brand identity as well.
The dispensary’s interior space was constructed using a lot of reclaimed wood from old-growth forests that no longer exist. That’s a greener alternative to using wood grown with fertilizer on farms today, and Boyar says it adds “tremendous character” to the space.
“During construction, we uncovered signage from the original building occupant, millwork shop Acme Manufacturing Company. We instantly knew that this should remain untouched and used as wall art in our lounge area,” he said.
The dispensary also utilized shelving and tool boxes left over from the building’s second occupant, Johnson Tool & Dye.
“These elements all add to the historic look and feel,” Boyar said.
Location: 8195 Express Dr, Marion, IL 62959
Harbory’s colorful wall mural was designed by Todd and Bekeh Bass to represent the full house during the dispensary’s first 4/20 celebration.
“Everyone who visited us on April 20th was encouraged to graffiti our wall with inspirational quotes and drawings. The Bass’s then came in and painted this stunning mural to complete the wall. The idea was to have something uplifting and beautiful for our members to see the moment they step foot in our building,” Harbory business development manager Sara Perdue told Extract.
The artists, Todd and Bekeh Bass, own and operate Triphammer Tattoo parlor in Carbondale, Illinois.
“We enjoy displaying our custom artwork, paintings, and sculptures to create not only an interesting & comfortable tattooing environment, but a small independent art gallery as well,” Bekeh Bass said in an email to Extract.
Medical cannabis plays an important role in the Bass’s lives, and they wanted to share their love of art and design with Harbory’s patient community.
“In 2013 we were in a life altering car accident. We both struggle with chronic pain, but having access to medicinal cannabis has allowed us to continue to enjoy all the beautiful things this world has to offer! Being members of the medical cannabis community has opened many doors for us. We’ve found it is filled with friendly, open minded people who are interested in the basic well being of mankind,” Bekeh Bass said.
New Age Care
Location: 2015 E Euclid Ave, Mount Prospect, IL 60056
New Age Care prioritizes patient education, safety and satisfaction, and its retail facility includes a resource library where patients can learn more about the science of cannabis, and how specific cannabinoids may help their medical condition.
New Age Care’s original design pieces depict terpenes found in the cannabis plant, as well as specific cannabis strains for sale at the dispensary.
Windy City Cannabis
Windy City Cannabis CEO Steve Weisman worked with designers Jason Berry and David Pinson from 4orm Studio, along with artist and audio engineer Tony Lazzara, to create wooden tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) molecule structures displayed inside the dispensary’s locations in south and southwest Cook County. Lazzara’s company, Erase Audio, typically specializes in creating custom guitars.
Location: 5001 N Clark St, Chicago, IL 60640
Dispensary 33’s name recalls the year U.S. alcohol prohibition ended in 1933, but the Andersonville dispensary’s design aesthetic is decidedly modern day. Owners Zachary Zises, Kristie Zises and Paul Lee’s vision for the space is based heavily on the idea that patients should be able to walk into the retailer and actually see, smell and understand the products.
The display room’s open floor plan and inviting design elements feel professional, bright and clean, with no trace of the stuffy, sanitized vibes that traditional medical establishments often give off.
The waiting room features an installation piece by artist Linsey Rosen, constructed with paper sheets mimicking the size and shape of rolling papers. Inside the display room, a wall mural by MAKE & Co. depicts artistic renderings of the cannabis plant.
Dispensary 33’s lovely interior design even earned it a place on Leafly’s list of the “10 Most Beautiful Cannabis Dispensaries in America.”
Location: 1132 Lake St, Oak Park, IL 60301
Seven Point, located in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, features a glass-encased showroom where patients can view the dispensary’s wide range of finely packaged medical cannabis products. The dispensary feels sleek and clean, with a rich, soothing color scheme. Murals inside the showroom, created by MAKE & Co., depict the cannabis plant and medical cannabis products.
Curioso studio designed Seven Point’s interior space, and provided artistic direction and brand identity services for the dispensary as well.
See more art and design photos from Illinois dispensaries: