Choosing the Right Security Systems for Your Legal Cannabis Business
By: Michael Star, CHS-II, CSMP
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SYSTEMS
Like banks, jewelry and liquor stores, cultivators and retailers/dispensaries deal in a high-value product and a cash-heavy business that is very appealing to thieves. As part of an emerging industry, growers, producers, labs, extractors, dispensaries and retailers are all still learning when it comes to preventing and dealing with criminal activity. This is where an experienced security consultant can be the most help.
Systems include access control, CCTV cameras and video management, intrusion detection and alarms. Choosing the right security system for your business is extremely important, both in terms of meeting essential state code requirements and getting the most value for your investment. Essential elements for a system that can provide you security and be compliant are listed below.
WHAT DOES MY BUSINESS NEED?
Unlike most other industries, security systems for the cannabis industry must do more than protect against crime. Foremost, it must be a compliance verification system for the state. The design, equipment and placement of the security systems must be tailored to this need to prove compliance. In essence, you are providing transparency by doing surveillance on yourself. If you are a cannabis business, however, the stakes are much higher. In additions to meeting state regulatory requirements, you need to meet your operational security needs.
So, how do you figure out what you really need? Your best solution, hire an independent physical security consultant. A good security consultant will know code requirements, understand risks, and know industry best practices. Physical security is a complicated concept. As a business owner, you have thousands of other things you need to focus on to run a profitable business. Independent security consultants have your best interest in mind. They make recommendations based on what you need, not by what they sell (unlike your security systems installer or guard company). Independent consultants are unaffiliated with any products or service providers. You get unbiased recommendations customized for your particular business – No off the self, cookie cutter solutions.
.In some states, if your cameras are down for more than 30 minutes, the regulatory/enforcing agency must be notified. Most other types of businesses don’t even know when a system is down because they don’t monitor it that closely. Most only use it to look at video after a theft or other crime has occurred.
In most other industries, if your security systems stopped working temporarily, you could put temporary mitigation measures in place (such as adding a guard) with little impact on the business. This is not the case with licensed marijuana businesses.
Each state’s regulations spell out compliance requirements for security systems, some even down to the camera resolution, images per second and video retention period required, so, at a minimum, having someone who thoroughly understands these requirements is a must.
In additions to meeting state regulatory requirements, you need to meet your operational security needs. Monitored security systems can help you identify trespassers, identify propped open doors, open loading docks or device malfunctions. It can document workplace injuries, insider theft through product diversion, track deliveries and vendors. Your security systems can also monitor other critical building systems like ventilation, dangerous CO2 or butane build up, water leakage/water flow, thermostats, etc.
If your business or facility is large enough, you should have a trained security representative actively monitoring alarms and live video, and providing verification and response to suspicious activity. Additionally, it is recommended (and may be required) that you also have your alarm systems monitored by a UL listed alarm monitoring service. In addition to storing recorded video on-site, your security advisor can advise you as to whether cloud video archiving should also be considered.
As your business grows, so must your security and safety systems. The legal cannabis industry is still in its infancy in most jurisdictions. Codes and regulations are evolving along with the industry. As regulatory compliance requirements change, so must you security systems and written policies.
In several states, there have been reports of companies’ tearing out their security systems multiple times to try to stay current with ever changing regulations. In reality, putting in the regulatory minimum is not a viable option, and is rather short sighted. You hope your business will grow, and you know that regulations and the threats to your business will change.
GO BEYOND COMPLIANCE
What the state requires to get your doors open is probably not adequate for what you need in a cash rich business. Just because the state says you’re good to go does not mean you should stop there, because people can and will still steal from you.
The leading cause of fines and loss of licenses is inadequate security and lack of product traceability (shrinkage due to diversion of product), followed closely by sales to or allowing persons under age on the premises (policy and procedure issues).
This is another good reason to retain the services of an independent security consultant. Regular security audits can identify gaps or inadequacies in your existing systems and policies. Audits should to be completed by an independent 3rd party consultant in conjunction with your security services providers.
DON’T HIDE YOUR SECURITY SYSTEM
If you have a good security system, let people know about it. You want cameras that can be seen. You want everyone to know you have good security, and that they are being watched. This is what is known as a visual deterrent. Tell everyone about your security setup: subcontractors, employees, managers, visitors.
SECURE YOUR SYSTEMS
Access to your security systems controls and on-site video recording must be restricted to a minimal number of staff on an as-needed bases. Video & access control servers and burglar alarm panels need to be in a secure location at your facility such as in a vault or hardened room. Off-site archiving of video (cloud storage) adds an additional layer of protection.
All door and window contacts and control panels and sub-panels should be supervised and have tamper detection. All alarm points must be covered by video cameras to confirm and record alarm events.
ELIMINATE THE TEMPTATION TO STEAL
In an all cash-business, the temptation to steal is high. Both from outside criminals, and employees. Internal theft is the number one cause of revenue loss. Most robberies or burglaries involve inside information.
Eliminate the opportunity and the temptation. Have proper protocols and policies in place. Make sure employees understand that theft will not be tolerated and that you will prosecute, no matter how small the theft was. It is all significant. If you catch and employee stealing, this was most likely not there first time, just the first time getting caught.
420 Security Advisors was established to help you navigate your way through the jungle of security systems choices and regulatory requirements. We understand security and the legal cannabis industry. We work for your best interests in mind. As your security advisor, we can develop solutions around how you do business, and help you stay in business. To speak to one of our advisors, call toll free at (833) 420-4636 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Michael Star is a former law enforcement officer who has spent the last 20 years designing security solutions for government and private organizations globally. Michael utilizes risk assessments, crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), ergonomics and behavioural psychology as tools to develop solutions around how companies do business.