Cannabis Dispensary Security from Top to Bottom

May 16, 2023

A locksmith discusses why transitioning to securing exit doors and inventory doors is a logical addition to any company providing security installations to a cannabis facility

Moving from installing intrusion systems, camera systems and access control into forced-entry protection is not a giant leap. If you are technically inclined, then those same hands and minds can be applied to protecting assets and facilities against burglars.

I started in this industry as a journeyman installer for one of the nation’s largest providers. In 2014, I moved to Colorado to work in the booming cannabis industry. After working for a general security provider for a bit, I took the leap to form a new cannabis-compliant security company. Colorado was on the forefront, and I took it upon myself to learn the codes and requirements.

I started getting into the locksmith work, mostly because we would find ourselves waiting on other trades to get the doors and locks installed so we could perform our work. This made us more efficient and different from other companies doing low-voltage installations. By being able to install the door and locks, we could streamline our low-voltage installations as well.

Our business has expanded to include rekeying for existing locks, crash bar installations for standard and storefront doors, and commercial lockset installations as well. I have brought on a few techs that specialize in network security to be able to offer this service as well.

From the Floor to the Door

I have recently started working with MSO (multi-state operations) companies in the cannabis industry designing and installing their security systems as well as maintaining their systems. Currently, I have done systems in Alaska, Ohio, Michigan, Rhode Island, Illinois, East St. Louis, California and Missouri. I currently do not advertise at all and have done this all just by word of mouth from existing clients, and friends referring me to others.

The top concern of all these facilities is protecting their valuable and easily sellable product from theft. While cameras and intrusion detection are good aids in identifying and restricting access, protecting the rear door, selling floor to back-of-house and interior storage area doors is critical.

We first started installing Securitech Trident MD20 5-point deadbolt exit locks on rear exterior doors, as well as some secure storage room doors. We were familiar with the product, having seen and installed them in numerous retail locations. Code compliance is critical, and the Trident provides 100% code compliance as well as the best protection against burglars’ methods of breaking in.

On vault doors, we used the Securitech MD48 multi-point deadbolt lock, as these doors did not require the Trident operation. We switched to the Securitech AutoBolt Max when it was introduced, and we have been using them on all rear entry points along with a full-length anti-pry plate. We use the surface or concealed AutoBolt Max on high-security storage doors, and will tie them into the access control system with 2-step verification, either a card and key code or stepping it up to a card/code and retinal scanning biometrics. The AutoBolt Max is designed for high traffic and many of these doors are opened a lot of times each day. We still install Tridents on exit-only doors.

Cannabis Clients Clamor for High-Security Locks

Most of the cannabis clients we meet have dealt with break-ins through doors. A client shared a video of the intruder arriving with a large crowbar and jam it in between the door and frame and just popping the door open. That’s why there is such high acceptance of the 5-point locking provided by the AutoBolt MAX and Trident. Burglars can spend a lot of time trying to break in. We have also seen videos of multi-point locking stopping burglars using large crowbars and other tools, even trying to ram the door with the edge of a truck!

The key thing on installing on an existing door is to always take your time with the templates and if you think something might be off measure and check again. The last thing you want to do is drill a bunch of holes in the door and have the lock not line up properly or work properly and end up turning the door into Swiss cheese with multiple holes. Always use the correct installation hardware that comes with the locks. I have seen other so-called professional companies use the wrong hardware, and not use all the hardware when installing the locks which in turn causes the customer to deal with issues of their lock not working correctly.

When it comes to installing a Trident MD-20 or AutoBolt Max on an existing door, we normally have to deal with the existing cylindrical lock opening on the door. For the Trident locks, we lower the mounting template to be able to cover the full opening. You can position the template lower than shown on the instructions to allow the Trident exterior lever spindle to pass through the current door opening.

Dispensary Lessons Learned

I had a dispensary that had a few attempted break-ins through the back door with a crowbar. After the customer reviewed the video of this we installed 2 AutoBolt Max locks on the back doors. The attempted burglar came back and noticed the handles looked different and that the crowbar didn't even budge the door. They then found a cinder block and tried to break the handle off the door which resulted in them only damaging the handle. They never got through the door, but they did get a nice consolation prize of missing the handle and slamming the cinder block on their foot.

Another client had a break-in through the back door when they got in they found the fridge with the concentrates in them and stole over $5,000 in products. We replaced the door and frame for them and installed an AutoBolt Max on this door and the cultivation entry rear door (we recommended this from the beginning, but some customers sadly wait until after they have been hit). When the burglar came back to break in through the cultivation door they were met with a superior lock that was way stronger than they were expecting and it prevented them from stealing anything at all and only putting a slight dent in the door frame. The client was extremely impressed with the lock and had us install the AutoBolt Max on a few more doors of concern at their location.

Transitioning to securing exit doors and inventory doors is a logical addition to any company providing security installations to a cannabis facility. Align yourself with an experienced lock or door installer and you’ll be able to provide the multi-point locking products to complete the security package.

Ryan Shields is the owner of RHYNO SYSTEMS LLC in Denver, CO, which handles physical security in the cannabis business sector.