Cannabis now is fully legal in 18 states in the United States and decriminalized in 13 others.
In fact, only six states — Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming — have refused to recognize any sort of cannabis legalization, whether it be recreational or medical. In 2020, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, South Dakota and Vermont legalized marijuana. Even Mississippi has voted to legalize medical marijuana, becoming one of the first Southern states to do so.
About 109 million Americans now live in areas where adults can use cannabis legally. But as more states sign off on legal weed, those looking to enter the potentially lucrative retail cannabis market, whether medical or recreational, will have to procure licenses or permits to operate. Because cannabis isn’t regulated by the federal government, every state has its own regulations and application process in place. However, the one constant is that each state requires strict security measures to be initiated to provide for the safety and security of the operation, its associates and the neighborhood within which it operates. Most states call this a “security plan” and require its details to be submitted with the application to operate, but what exactly is a security plan?
Making a Cannabis Security Plan
Tim Sutton, a senior security consultant at Guidepost Solutions, who is regarded as one of the top cannabis security experts, warns new cannabis operators that a security plan is much more than a security pro’s blueprints or the recommended security devices and technology systems. The project should consist of a security master plan that will encompass security management, security operations and a security technology roadmap. Sutton says the first stop prior to selecting any project’s security team is a consultant that has been tested in the highly regulated cannabis market.
“Security systems such as cameras, electronic access control and alarms are tools,” Sutton explains. “Tools are not solutions; they are tools. A strong security program based upon experience, best practices and standards must be developed and implemented. A security master plan is what ultimately ensures compliance and is needed for a permit or license to operate.”
Consultants, such as Sutton, who jumped into the industry during its inception, contend that because the legal side of the cannabis industry still is relatively new, businesses that are launching and looking to play by the rules when securing a license and staying compliant face more complexities because of the lack of federal regulations. However, when it comes to security for grow facilities and dispensaries, some cannabis industry best practices have become standard, such as taking sufficient safety measures to deter and prevent unauthorized entrance into areas that contain marijuana by implementing secured entrances and an integrated access control solution. This ensures that vital records, such as personnel information, inventory information that ranges from seed to product, and purchase information, be stored in a secure environment that has auditable electronic key controls.
Every state also requires that a licensed premise must have a video surveillance system that has unobstructed camera views of any areas where cannabis is handled and provides a visual audit trail for all inventory. Along with this video surveillance system, there must be adequate monitoring and storage of video recordings. Many retail dispensaries also will stage security personnel during business hours and in some circumstances, 24/7. An alarm monitoring system that can be integrated with video, access control, key-control cabinets and storage systems that trigger alerts during unauthorized access also is a required tool in most security plans.
Dealing with Internal Loss
Although the security threats to cannabis cultivation centers and retail dispensaries are as varied as the regulations that ensure compliance, employee theft is perhaps the top threat marijuana businesses now face. According to Marijuana Business Daily, about 90% of the financial and product losses in the cannabis industry can be attributed to this cause.
Many grow facilities and manufacturing businesses also are installing secured entrances, such as mantraps and portals, and then doubling down in the building’s interior with multi-authentication-enabled turnstiles and biometrics for secured labs and cash rooms.
In a rapidly evolving market, such as the cannabis industry, regulatory and compliance changes figure to be a constant headache. But a well-planned security blueprint that’s based on foundational fundamentals of access and key controls certainly can alleviate some of the stress.