Cannabis Manufacturing Facility Security: How to Install a Security System
Christopher Cohen, owner of Sacramento-based cannabis manufacturing and distribution company TotaLeaf Inc., characterizes robberies and burglaries of cannabis businesses as a “major problem.”
His comment stems from personal experience. In 2018, crooks stole $80,000 worth of cash and cannabis products from TotalLeaf after circumventing the facility’s alarm system and video surveillance technology.
The edibles-to-oils manufacturer has since invested in better security, adding steel doors, additional security cameras, alarm systems, fences, and bolted-down safes. The firm also hired a private security firm to watch over TotalLeaf’s property 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As the TotalLeaf example shows, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To safeguard products, assets, people and cash, companies must harden their cannabis manufacturing facility against would-be thieves.
What is a Cannabis Manufacturer?
A manufacturing or manufacturing operation is an entity involved in all facets of the cannabis extraction process, infusion process, and packaging and labeling processes. A manufacturer processes, prepares, holds, and stores cannabis products and components and ingredients used in the manufacturing process.
Who Regulates Cannabis Businesses?
Before writing a cannabis manufacturing facility security plan, operators should determine what regulations apply to them.
Contact state regulatory bodies and local government to learn more about the regulations and ordinances that apply to your manufacturing operation. These bodies differ by state.
- In California, the California Department of Public Health’s Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch (MCSB) regulates commercial cannabis manufacturing in California.
- In Oregon, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) accepts license applications for cannabis manufacturing.
- The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board oversees applications for the production, processing or retailing of cannabis in Washington.
No matter where a cannabis manufacturing facility operates, operators must submit a cannabis manufacturing security plan to regulators to get a cannabis manufacturing license.
This plan should include scale diagram of the proposed manufacturing operation. The diagram should show boundaries, dimensions, entrances and exits, interior partitions, walls, rooms, windows, and doorways.
The diagram should detail where commercial cannabis activities will take place. Operators should show all areas of the cannabis manufacturing process from infusion activities, extraction activities, packaging activities, labeling activities, and transportation activities, such as loading and unloading of cannabis and cannabis products.
The operators of cannabis processing businesses should list limited-access areas, areas used for video surveillance monitoring and surveillance system storage devices, and all security camera locations on the diagram. And, they should note cannabis waste disposal areas on the plan.
How to Install a Security System at a Cannabis Manufacturing Facility in 5 Steps
Learn how to install a compliant security system at your cannabis manufacturing facility by following these steps:
- Preform a Site Assessment.
- Access Control.
- Monitor with Video Surveillance.
- Install Intrusion Detection.
- Don’t Forget the Employees.
Step 1: Perform a Site Assessment
There isn’t a cookie cutter answer for cannabis manufacturing facility security. Every security solution is unique.
The first step is to conduct a thorough security assessment to identify specific security risks. Professional security installers use identified vulnerabilities to develop a well-designed and effective security solution.
The site assessment will consider the manufacturer’s location and nearby buildings to calculate risk and determine needed security technologies and where they should go.
Manufacturers face unique risks because not only do crooks seek the raw goods they bring in for manufacture, but they also seek the finished products and the cash stored within.
Step 2: Access Control
Access control is one of the most important considerations in cannabis manufacturing security.
For access control, most states require walls separating limited access areas from common/exterior areas, supplemented by commercial-grade locking doors and access control policies relating to limited access areas.
Beyond that, cannabis manufacturers should install an access control system that only allows authorized personnel to enter. The access control system must track who enters and leaves using their credentials and provide added protection when the facility is closed.
Operators must determine how employees will access the manufacturing facility. Where will they park? How will they enter and exit the facility? Will employees use passcodes, key fobs or other access control technology? How will you control access to limited access areas within the facility? How will deliveries come into the facility? Who will oversee accepting them? How will product leave the location? Who will head that?
Manufacturers can increase security by putting additional locks and/or access control in all storage areas. Store cash, cannabis and retail products in locked storage areas and only provide authorized staff with access.
Enclosing cannabis production facilities with a physical barrier or a sight-obscure wall also helps. Perimeter fencing should also secure the area where employees park. The facility itself requires steel doors, functional but lockable windows, and secure storage areas.
Step 3: Monitor with Video Surveillance
Every cannabis manufacturing facility requires 24/7 video monitoring. Video surveillance cameras should capture footage at every entrance and exit, in receiving and loading areas, on the manufacturing floor, and within secure storage areas.
Manufacturers 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. Remember, the quality of your footage should be high enough to identify who enters and leaves key parts inside and outside a facility.
A cannabis manufacturer security plan also must show how you will maintain and test camera operation, where you will store video footage and for how long, and how you will secure the area holding video footage.
Step 4: Install Intrusion Detection
Every cannabis processing facility needs an intrusion detection system. The law requires operators to secure and protect cannabis manufacturing facilities with intrusion (burglar) alarms at entrances, exits and around the perimeter.
Intrusion detection systems detect unauthorized access and break-in attempts at all entry points. They should alert key personnel, security officers and local law enforcement if someone breaks in or attempts to break in.
The technology should include door and window contacts for break-ins, glass-break detectors in case of smashed windows, and motion detectors should an intruder get inside.
Cannabis manufacturers 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 with their license application. They also should detail how they will ensure the alarm system remains operational and how often the alarm company will perform maintenance checks.
Step 5: Don’t Forget the Employees
The greatest theft threat is internal.
Cannabis manufacturers should design each premises in a way that keeps workers in various job descriptions confined to areas of the premises consistent with those duties, and only those duties.
In a processing facility, for example, the first room should be a secure screening area where authorized personnel scan employee credentials before giving access to the area. The next room for a processing premises should be the breakroom/restroom area. Thereafter, the processing room.
Design the manufacturing facility in a way that prevents each work group from having direct knowledge about anything else in the premises beyond the room where they work. Employees should not know where the cultivation, storage, drying, security, loading, vault or other areas are. Nor should they know the details of the security systems in place.
It is also wise to segregate work groups into separate break/restroom areas to prevent comingling of employees who work in separate aspects of the business. When large work groups with distinct access rights comingle, the potential for relationships with nefarious intent and conspiracies can develop. Schedule distinct work groups in a manner that reduces or eliminates connectedness.
In addition, put policy in place that prevents early arrivals and lingering on the premises after hours to further prevent disparate work groups from collaborating.
Prevent internal theft by putting whistleblower protections in place. An anonymous reporting system with assurances toward confidentiality helps employees come forward and report illegal activity.
For optimal security, manufacturers should require all employees to undergo a background check and fingerprint screening to ensure they are not career criminals with a record of violent crimes and theft. This screening should be part of every cannabis manufacturer’s security plan.
Hire a Professional
Though DIY security technologies that non-technical business owners can install exist, doing so puts a cannabis manufacturing facility at risk. It’s best to let experts install the technology designed to protect millions of dollars in products, assets, and cash.
An experienced professional will perform a site audit, develop a security plan and install the security technology. A professional installer also offers advanced services or components that DIY security systems do not. They can design a system using a mix of technologies that meets your cannabis manufacturing facility’s unique needs. A professional installer can also monitor and maintain the system over its lifetime.
Protecting your cannabis manufacturing operation with a security system that goes above what the law requires may be expensive, but in the long run it will save you money by keeping your people, products and profits safe.