Weed Architect


I've been asked to provide a proposal to serve as Architect of Record for a marijuana growing operation in Detroit.  

Are there any specific pitfalls for projects of this type that I should be aware of?  My former firm refused to take any marijuana related projects but I never heard why.


May 31, 18 9:11 am

IANAL: Weed is still a Schedule I Drug at the federal level and all these dispensaries and growers are one DEA raid away from being closed down. Everyone who works for them and handles money for them can be charged with federal felonies. With the current administration, the risk is too great to get involved in this mess, especially if you're being paid with "drug money."

May 31, 18 9:25 am

You will probably be paid in cash, which might require some additional hassle to deposit and you will probably get audited by the IRS with that amount of cash payments/deposits.


your pro liability e&o insurance might have an issue with it...getting paid with drug money is awesome though, all cash, no taxes.  

May 31, 18 9:48 am

This is one of the best ways of becoming that rare architect who ended up in jail: don't pay taxes. If uncle sam is investigating a drug operation, and your name is uncovered, they will have no issue estimating how much you got paid, and they will gladly overestimate because why not.


haters gonna hate


I just know there are a ton of regulations about grow facilities.  So, I could see some liability there if you miss something and they can't get their permits.  I'd guess the license they need goes through some other process beyond building department (sort of like daycare facilities and restaurants have separate permits to do their thing).  I'd also guess since the whole industry is newish, you'll be running up against very unsophisticated clients and authoritative reviews since no-one really knows the new regulations.

I can't see the Fed's jumping in to arrest.  Haven't had that issue here in CO.  File taxes as normal, even if paid in cash.  If though you do get into it, it could set you up in a specialized niche market within a tight community.   

May 31, 18 10:44 am

I'm also in Colorado; the only case I've seen having any trouble is the very first grow facility built in the valley, they were under the microscope for 4 years, many people opposed it, and they had to try several air filters to avoid any smell to reach the residential neighborhood across the highway. It's a beautiful building and now it works seamlessly. 

May 31, 18 10:51 am

our office has refused these type of proposals in Detroit metro for legal issues and insurance issues

May 31, 18 12:42 pm

First cannabis client: he had no idea what he was getting into, wanted to open a medical clinic pre-retail days...he had already hired a contractor & leased the building before he contacted me & we needed to do a change of occupancy, which isn't simple (or at least as simple as he wanted). We parted ways because after getting him thru the planning issues, I just couldn't give him permit docs in a week...3 years later he tries to put up an online review of my services completely misstating fundamental services I provided (what were surely his hazy memories of how we parted ways).

Second cannabis client: I issued an invoice for work to a cannabis entrepreneur jan 31 this year. After several returned checks, I got paid April 15 with a bank certified check.

I'm not saying cannabis clients are not professional, but my experience thus far has been less than optimal...

May 31, 18 1:54 pm

There is a firm here in Chicago that does most of the medicinal marijuana related architecture work here in the city - Perimeter Architects. Provided you aren't in the same market (and I don't think you are based on your past posts), might be worth reaching out to them.

May 31, 18 4:05 pm

You're dealing with folks that are a little shady.  Getting paid could be a real problem.  Trying to collect in court would not be fun since you would have to overcome a judge's possible attitude that you are an accessory to a crime.  Definitely, if you do it, charge a major league fee.  These guys make $$$ hand over fist and there is no reason you shouldn't get to slop your biscuit in some of that gravy.

May 31, 18 4:09 pm

shady? what is it? 1948? I think it's time to stop with this bs about cash deals and thugs; the only reason pot shops operate in cash is because of the banks being frightened, not the customers or vendors. 

And this>


yeah, not shady (this is a legitimate & huge business in OR)...but not necessarily thorough type-A's either...i suspect, as the market over-saturates with startups, the better businesses will emerge and hang on. My last one was for Cali, where they just opened for retail sales...


JLC-1. But if the banks are frightened, that should tell you something. They do business with some pretty dodgy folks and even they know there is a line that is dangerous to cross.


you got it wrong, the banks are not frightened of the business, they are just licking the feds butt. as always.


That's pretty much how I feel.  I am going to be really busy this summer with my day job, so anything extra needs to be very lucrative to be worthwhile.

May 31, 18 4:32 pm
There’s money to be made, though as we’ve been encountering in MA, lots of clients who think they can do things for less money...and especially when it comes to A/E fees. The general rule of thumb is if a client doesn’t have at least $5,000,000 in cash, stay away. They don’t have their shit together. And if they balk at $300/SF for construction (minimum!), stay away, they’re delusional. Just keep in mind that if you think homeowner clients are difficult, wait until you deal with persnickety growers... With the right client though you can make some pretty nice fees...and obtain some nice samples.
May 31, 18 6:07 pm

The business model for these guys is interesting to me.  

They don't actually do any growing, they are real estate brokers who buy a property, get it permitted for growing, and then sell to someone who wants to actually build and operate the business.

Jun 1, 18 9:23 am

I don't see how this is any liability for you. It's an F-1 agricultural building.


update - turned down the job after it became apparent that there was far too much work for me to do in the time frame that they needed.  

Jun 1, 18 4:15 pm

It turns out they only need stamped drawings to be submitted to the state Fire Marshal, not for spa or building permit.  Does anyone have any insight on liability in that situation?

Jun 5, 18 1:54 pm

What is spa? I worked on agricultural sheds back in the day and when there was no jurisdiction we sent the plans to the state fire marshall and that was it.


Sorry, Site Plan Approval. I guess they just want to show that the building is approved for marijuana growing by the Fire Marshal so that they can sell the building for more $$$. They don't need or want construction level drawings.


I think it has to do with construction type and egress. Is it a metal building?


There's a poster on another thread who is pouting because he doesn't get to stamp drawings at work. Maybe he'll stamp these and then you can avoid liability and collect the vig besides.


I saw that one too. no interest in the product. I'll stick to beer and whisky


Fire Marshal reviews and licenses marijuana facilities in Michigan.  They also review schools, day cares, and several medical occupancies.  Not sure if that is common in other states.

Jun 6, 18 8:28 am

Not sure if you have seen this from AIA Trust? Written by three lawyers and "summarizes unique issues of marijuana facilities design and

construction including the considerations necessary for the safe and
efficient delivery of product to the consumer. It will also discuss
current and potential legal risks that a design professional may face,
arising from work with this industry and highlight code provisions
commonly adopted by municipalities where such activities take place."

Jun 25, 18 12:24 am

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