Cannabis Dispensary Security: 7 Steps To Installing a Compliant Security System
There have been 10 break-ins at Sacramento cannabis dispensaries since late August and authorities are trying to find a connection between them.
But robberies and burglaries of cannabis dispensaries spreads far outside the city limits. They are an issue that plagues the cannabis industry nationwide.
Cannabis dispensaries generate approximately $10 billion in annual sales. Their high revenues—and the notion that these businesses keep their cash profits inside—attracts thieves. In fact, dispensaries face a 50-50 chance of being burglarized; a figure that is higher than that for
banks, liquor stores and pharmacies.
Here, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To safeguard products, assets, people and cash, every cannabis dispensary requires a scalable security plan.
Are You a Dispensary?
CannaInsider defines a cannabis dispensary as a location where patients or consumers can access cannabis in a legal and safe manner.
Users get help from experts (bud tenders) who find the right dosage and recommend the delivery method to achieve optimal results when using medical cannabis.
If your business fits this description, you need a dispensary security plan.
How to Install a Cannabis Dispensary Security System in 7 Steps
Learn how to install a cannabis dispensary security system that’s compliant with your local municipalities regulations by following these steps:
- Familiarize Yourself with the Regulations.
- Perform a Site Assessment.
- Access Control.
- Monitor with Video Surveillance.
- Install Intrusion Detection.
- Don’t Forget About Employee Background Checks
- Hire a Professional
Step 1: Familiarize Yourself with the Regulations
Before embarking on writing a dispensary security plan, dispensary operators should learn what regulations apply to them.
Contact the regulatory bodies for the state you are in and the local municipality where you will work to learn more about the regulations and ordinances that apply to you.
- In California, the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) regulates commercial cannabis licenses for medical and adult-use cannabis. The BCC issues licenses to retailers, distributors, testing labs, micro-businesses and temporary cannabis events.
- In Oregon, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) accepts license applications for recreational marijuana.
- The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis board oversees applications for the production, processing or retailing of marijuana in Washington.
The requirements differ from state to state and city to city. But overall, a cannabis dispensary security plan includes a diagram of the proposed premises that shows:
- entrances and exits
- interior partitions
- windows and doorways
- information on security camera placement
- information on access control systems
Regulatory bodies also require an SOP (standard operating procedure) for dispensaries. The SOP must include information on alarms, access control systems, surveillance cameras, lighting and perimeter security.
It should detail record-keeping processes, employee background screening steps and employee identification procedures. It also should share how you will control access to specific areas.
Step 2: Perform a Site Assessment
There isn’t a cookie cutter answer for the varied cannabis dispensary crime problem. The security solution for every dispensary will be unique.
The first step is to conduct a thorough security assessment to identify specific security risks.
These vulnerabilities are used to develop a well-designed and effective security solution.
A site assessment considers the dispensary’s location and buildings nearby to calculate risk and determines the security technologies to put in place.
Dispensaries have unique risk factors because they often operate within retail centers.
Business operators may not have complete control over who enters and leaves the building at common entrances and exits.
Step 3: Access Control
Access control is one of the most important considerations in dispensary security. You must design the system in a way that only allows authorized personnel to enter.
You must track who enters using their credentials and provide added protection when the dispensary is closed.
Determine how authorized staff will access your facility.
Where will they park? How will they enter and exit the building?
Will you use passcodes, key fobs or other access control technology?
How will you receive deliveries?
Add security by putting additional locks and/or access control in all storage areas. Store cannabis not displayed to customers in these locked storage areas with access available to authorized staff only.
Access considerations also include determining how customers will enter and leave the building.
Where will they park and enter and exit? How will you screen them? Who will verify their credentials?
Step 4: Monitor with Video Surveillance
Every cannabis dispensary requires 24/7 video monitoring.
Place video surveillance cameras in such a way that they capture footage at the point of sale, in receiving, on the sales floor and within secure storage areas.
Dispensaries should opt for the highest quality video resolution they can afford. While a 1-megapixel camera might meet a state requirement for IP cameras with a minimum camera resolution of 1280 x 1024 pixels, it’s best to aim higher.
The quality of your footage must be high enough to clearly identify who enters and leaves the dispensary, and who enters and leaves employee-only areas.
The dispensary security plan also must show how you will maintain and test camera operation, and where you will store video footage and for how long.
Step 5: Install Intrusion Detection
Every marijuana dispensary needs an intrusion detection system.
The law requires you to secure and protect cannabis dispensaries with intrusion (burglar) alarms at entrances, exits and around the perimeter.
This system detects unauthorized access and break-in attempts at all entry points. It should alert you and local law enforcement if someone breaks in or attempts to break in.
These systems should also include:
- door and window contacts in the case of break-ins
- glass-break detectors in case of smashed windows
- and motion detectors in case an intruder gets inside.
Dispensary license applicants should provide the name, license number, address, phone number and contact person of the alarm company that will install, maintain and monitor the alarm system.
They also should detail how they will ensure the alarm system remains operational and how often the alarm company will perform maintenance checks.
Hire a reputable alarm system provider. The BCC wards against the use of less-reputable alarm system installers, or installing your own alarm system, by mandating that cannabis dispensaries use an (Alarm Company Operator) ACO-licensed installer.
Step 6: Don’t Forget About Employee Background Checks
For optimal security, all employees require a background check and fingerprint screening to ensure they are not career criminals with a record for violent crimes and theft.
This screening should be part of every dispensary security plan.
Also train employees to implement the security plan correctly. This ensures they know how to use security technology, diffuse security threats, and cooperate with law enforcement and/or insurance providers.
Develop a reporting procedure and whistle-blower protections. Employees are reluctant to report issues unless protections are in place.
Step 7: Hire a Professional
While a DIY approach might work for your home, it is not recommended for dispensary security applications.
Though there are DIY security technologies that non-technical business owners can install, there is always the chance they will install the products improperly, leaving the business unprotected.
Ideally cannabis dispensary operators should tap an experienced professional to assess the dispensary, develop a security plan and install the security technology.
A professional security system installer offers advanced services or components that DIY security systems do not.
They can design a system for your dispensaries unique needs and recommend the technology that will work best.
They also can monitor and maintain the system over its lifetime.
It’s important to research security companies and select one with experience in dispensary security. Also, make sure the company is adequately insured.
Don’t take their word for it, however. Check their credentials by contacting current and previous customers about their experience.
Poor security can lead to theft of goods, harm to your employees and even the loss of your dispensary license.
The time to act is before problems occur not after.