- “There is a trend occurring in Colorado, California, Oregon, and Washington, but it is especially bad in Seattle, with all kinds of dispensary break-ins and robberies.”
- Most cannabis business owners only take action on what is required.
- Beyond meeting requirements or impressing investors, the point is to keep you, your employees, and your business safe and secure.
Security is an essential aspect for any cannabis dispensary. Because of current banking laws, cannabis retail stores are cash-dependent businesses, making them a target for armed criminals. This puts your business and dispensary employees at greater risk for robberies or break-ins.
Marijuana Criminal Activity on the Rise
There has been a surge in robberies at licensed cannabis shops — including a pistol-whipping, gunshots and killings in Washington state earlier this year, according to NPR. This is helping fuel a renewed push for federal banking reforms, which would make cash-dependent stores a less appealing target. But, there are dispensaries open today that need better security and cannot wait for federal banking reforms.
“There is a trend occurring in Colorado, California, Oregon, and Washington, but it is especially bad in Seattle, with all kinds of dispensary break-ins and robberies,” Timothy Sutton, Senior Security Consultant at Guidepost Solutions, said. “I have also seen a lot of poor security in all of these states. My thoughts on the matter are that there is not enough security compliance.”
The problem that most cannabis business owners are facing is the fact that they only take action on what is required. They are not doing enough research on what security they really need to stay safe. Leaf Retailer has done the research for you and put together a list of everything you need to know when hunting for a proper security system.
Developing a Security Plan
Many states require you to submit a formal dispensary security plan as part of the cannabis dispensary application process. These security plans should address whatever requirements are listed in state or local laws and regulations, including those related to:
- Physical security systems (door locks, alarms, etc.)
- Surveillance systems
- Security guards
- Security training
- The safe storage and delivery of cash and products
An in-depth security plan can also show your professionalism and dedication when trying to get funding. Beyond meeting requirements or impressing investors, the point is to keep you, your employees, and your business safe and secure. So keep these end-goals in mind when drafting your security plan:
- Actual safety
Here are some of the most important factors you should be on the lookout for when choosing a security system:
For Locks & Alarm Systems
Most states require you to install commercial-grade locks on all your external doors and to install an alarm system, usually one monitored and managed 24/7 by a company like ADT and/or sends alerts to your local authorities. Some states have other alarm requirements including silent panic alarms or alarms that trigger based on the smashing of windows.
Here are five factors to consider when choosing an alarm system:
- The product should be able to fill a variety of needs
- The product should be reliable in detecting and transmitting security alerts
- The product should utilize a system that could verify security incidents to minimize false alerts
- The product should be relatively easy to install, use, and monitor
- The product should be able to send alerts to official responders during incidents
For Surveillance Systems
Most states require you to install security cameras covering all the important areas of your business, including entrances and exits, POS stations, restricted areas, and anywhere you have cannabis products. Basically everywhere but your bathrooms and break rooms.
Here are four factors to consider when choosing an surveillance system:
- The product be clear enough to identify people in the store
- The product should offer remote access
- The product should retain video footage for 30-90 days
- The product should offer scalability in case you need to cover multiple locations
For Access Control
It is incredibly important that dispensaries make sure everyone who purchases marijuana products is 21 years or older. This is where security technology can come in handy. While not every state requires dispensaries to scan ID’s, it is still best practice for retailers to scan them and ensure they are real and that the consumer is of age.
Here are four factors to consider when choosing a scanning system:
- The product should be able to scan both magnetic stripes and barcodes for the different types of ID’s
- The product should be able to store data that can be retrieved at a later date
- The product should be easy to use so your employees can easily tell when an ID is fake or the person is not of age
- The product should be durable to withstand years of heavy use
For Restricted Access Areas
In addition to restricting access to your sales floor, you should also have areas in the back that are not visible or easily accessible from the sales floor. This is where you keep your cannabis and cash supplies, your NVRs and switches/routers, any growing or processing areas if you are vertically-integrated, and other sensitive items.
Visitors, including vendors, need to be issued identifying badges, be escorted by an approved employee at all times, as well as having all their information and visits logged. You can keep restricted areas off limits by keeping certain doors locked and only giving the key to select employees or by keeping valuables in a safe.
Aside from expensive security systems, here are some other actions you can take to better secure your dispensary from robberies and break-ins:
- Install Bollards in Front of Windows.
This will help prevent people from driving their vehicles right through your windows or through the front door.
- Protect Your Windows From Being Smashed.
You can install window film, bars, or roll-down gates to prevent people from smashing your windows and breaking in.
- Do Not Leave Merchandise Out on the Floor.
Just like in jewelry stores, it is a smart idea to get in the habit of locking all cannabis merchandise in a safe or in a back room where it is out of sight from the public eye when your store is not open. This will help prevent anyone walking by to see what you have out and attempt to break in.
- Hire a Security Guard.
Make sure they have the proper background and certifications necessary to properly protect your store while you are open.
Sutton says the best advice he can give to any dispensary is to double their security budget. “Whatever you have budgeted for security, double it, because you never have enough budget. A dispensary with 32 cameras, eighth controlled doors, and a full intrusion alarm system should budget $100,000 to pay for all of that — and that is just the equipment.”