Grow Facility Security: Install a Security System that's Cannabis Compliant
Proponents of legalization argued marijuana’s black market would dry up as legitimate grows replaced illegal ones. This has not been the case in California. More grows are legal now, but crime still runs rampant.
Of the 14 million pounds of marijuana grown in California annually, less than 20% is consumed in the Golden State. The rest crosses state lines via illicit drug trafficking operations, moving its way East.
Matt Carroll, a retired police officer from the Port of Sacramento Police Department and owner of Carroll Security Consulting, a firm that helps licensed cannabis operations secure their premises, finds the lucrative cash and crops of legal marijuana grows attracts criminal activity.
He explains, “Cannabis is legal in California and sells for approximately $1,500 a pound. But if you take that same pound to a state where it’s illegal, it’s just tripled in value.”
To safeguard products, assets, people and cash, every grow operation requires a well thought-out and high-tech security plan. Installing cameras, intrusion detection systems and access control devices can keep criminals away from your crops.
How to Install a Security System at a Cannabis Cultivation Facility in 7 Steps
Learn how to install a grow facility security system that’s compliant with local cannabis business regulations by following these steps:
- Know the Local Regulations.
- Indoor or Outdoor Cultivation?
- Do a Site Assessment Before Installing Your Security System.
- Install Surveillance Cameras.
- Opt for Access Control.
- Install Intrusion Detection
- Don’t Go It Alone
Lets get started!
1. Know the Local Regulations
Before writing a grow facility security plan, cultivators should understand the regulations that apply to them.
Contact the regulatory bodies of the state and the local municipality where you will work to learn more about the regulations and ordinances that apply to your grow operation.
- The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) oversees cultivators. This organization does not require cultivators to submit a security plan to get a state license.
- In Oregon, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) accepts license applications for marijuana grows.
- The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis board oversees marijuana cultivation applications in Washington.
The requirements differ from state to state and city to city. But overall, grow operations need a planned protocol for:
- Security: How will you secure the grow? What alarms, access control systems, surveillance cameras, lighting and perimeter security will you put in place to keep the property secure?
- Traceability: How will you track where the product goes after you sell it? Cannabis producers and licensees must adhere to a strict product tracking system from seed to sale.
- Employee qualifications and training: How will you screen employees and train them? How will they gain access to the grow site? Growers must develop a comprehensive identification system for employees.
- Visitor access. How will you identify and track visitors at the grow site? Grow operators should give visitors an identification badge to wear and display at all times. They should also log each visitors’ time of arrival, departure and purpose for their visit in a record that’s preserved for a period.
Regulatory bodies require an SOP (standard operating procedure) that details a grow operations’ security plans. The SOP must include information on alarms, access control systems, surveillance cameras, lighting and perimeter security.
It should detail record-keeping processes, track-and-trace procedures, employee background screening processes and employee identification procedures. It also should share how you will control access to specific areas.
2. Indoor or Outdoor Cultivation?
Will you grow your plants indoors or out? Each area comes with a different set of rules.
In most cases, states require cultivators to enclose outdoor production facilities with a physical barrier or a sight-obscure wall at least eight feet high. Some states also require a semi-permeable roofing over the grow. For example, Colorado requires producers growing cannabis outside to do so in a secure, remote location with high fences and semi-permeable roofing around the crop.
Most state laws ban grow facilities near public schools, parks, transit centers, libraries, or businesses that cater to minors. Cultivators can meet state requirements by selecting remote, out-of-the-way locations for their operations.
Indoor grows come with a different set of requirements. Here, the law requires growers to cultivate plants in an enclosed facility with functional windows, doors, rigid or semi-rigid walls, and a roof.
3. Do a Site Assessment Before Installing Your Security System
Every operation needs a unique grow house security solution developed from a thorough security assessment that identifies specific security risks. Security professionals use the identified vulnerabilities to develop an effective cultivation security plan for marijuana grow operations.
A site assessment considers the grow’s location. Is the facility or field in a high-crime area? Where are the nearest roads and access points? Will there be perimeter fencing? How tall is it?
It also examines exterior surroundings for security vulnerabilities, and tests parking lots for their lighting and security monitoring needs.
Every assessment also considers points of entry and exit. It also looks at windows, and considers their size, easy of entry/exit and strength.
4. Install Surveillance Cameras
Operators must monitor the areas where marijuana is present—at all times—with a visual recording device that can detect and record any attempt at unauthorized access.
At minimum, a surveillance camera system must meet a resolution of 640 x 470 pixels, record at a rate of 10 frames per second, and offer 24-hour continuous operation. The state may also require an on-premise storage device secured against tampering or theft.
In addition, it may require operators to store surveillance footage for at least 30 days and make it accessible to law enforcement or state licensing officials upon request.
Operators should position video surveillance cameras in a way that provides easy and uninhibited views of the entire grow operation. They also should provide views of point of sale areas, perimeter entrances/ exits, grow areas, processing rooms and distribution areas.
Remember to place security cameras where tampering or obstruction is impossible. Install cameras high off the ground to avoid tampering and in covert areas to avoid detection.
Plant height also factors into decisions about camera placement.
Plants may be 4 inches tall as cameras are installed but will reach 6 feet tall in a few months. If operators do not consider their mature height, plants will eventually block camera views.
Consider how your grow will operate, traffic flows, plant locations, and the mature height of the plants before placing cameras.
Should you opt for infrared surveillance cameras, you must weigh their use against infrared’s impact on the plants. Infrared is outside the range of light visible to the unaided human eye, but plants can see it and it may impact their growth.
Scientists report the heat from infrared light, in the far-red end of the spectrum, may discolor or kill plants, cause early growth spurts that reduce their health, or encourage them to flower too soon.
It’s best to only use the minimum number of infrared cameras needed for security.
5. Opt for Access Control
In many states, grow operation regulations mention surveillance cameras and security guards, but say little about access control systems.
Even if it’s not required by law, however, access control is a critical component for indoor and outdoor grow operations. Without it, cannabis operators leave their operations vulnerable to crime and diversion of their products.
Businesses must design every grow site in a way that prevents unauthorized access. They must limit access to areas where marijuana is present to licensed individuals who work there.
Users can gain access biometrically or they may use a key fob or keycard to enter. A sufficient access control system will also maintain a record of every person who enters and leaves.
6. Install Intrusion Detection
Every marijuana grow needs an intrusion detection system. The law requires operators to secure and protect cannabis grows with intrusion (burglar) alarms at entrances, exits and around the perimeter, even if your grow is outside and spans several acres.
An intrusion detection system spots unauthorized access and break-in attempts at entry points. It will alert you and local law enforcement whenever someone breaks in or attempts to break in.
For indoor grows, these systems should also include door and window contacts that spot break-ins, glass-break detectors that detect smashed windows, and motion detectors that spot movement inside.
7. Don't Go It Alone
While a DIY approach might work for your home, experts do not recommend it for high-dollar grow operations. When business owners, lacking mechanical abilities, install sophisticated security systems, they risk installing products improperly, leaving their crops vulnerable to crime.
Grow operation owners should bring in an experienced cannabis security company to assess their site, develop a security plan, and install the security technology instead.
A professional security system installer offers advanced services or components that DIY security systems do not. They can design a system with the right mix of technologies for a grow operations’ unique security needs. They also can monitor and maintain the system over its lifetime.
It’s important to research security companies and select one with experience in securing grow operations. Check their credentials by contacting current and previous customers about their experiences.
In a market estimated to reach between $20-$35 billion by the end of 2020, hardening security contributes to a grow operations success. A solid cannabis cultivation security plan designed by a professional prevents diversion from cutting into your profits.