Security is a key factor in designing, owning, and maintaining any cannabis facility. Safeguarding multiple threats and concerns including the threat of robbery and the risks of accidents, cannabis cultivation, manufacturing, and retail facilities have a lot to plan for. The necessity for proper security measures goes beyond simple regulatory compliance. This guide explains the many factors that go into cannabis facility security and why it is so important.
Why is security important in the cannabis industry?
Cannabis facilities require significant upfront investment, and when they are operational, they may hold hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars in product. In addition, because cannabis is a federally controlled substance, many cannabis businesses struggle to access the banking system and have to deal primarily in cash.
For these reasons, cannabis businesses are often major targets for robbery. To keep employees safe and deter theft, dispensaries and other facilities must take proactive steps in securing both the product and cash kept on the premises. The threat of robbery is so great that every state with a legal cannabis market maintains minimum security requirements that all licensees must follow, and many cannabis businesses choose to go above and beyond these requirements to ensure the security of their operations.
What security considerations are important for a cannabis facility?
To protect their assets from crime, cannabis businesses need to consider a holistic and comprehensive security plan. Among those components are the following.
Surveillance includes security cameras, centralized monitoring software, and trained personnel capable of keeping tabs on every facet of a cannabis facility’s operations. Surveillance serves, first and foremost, as a crime deterrent. A robust surveillance system that includes visible security cameras and guards will dissuade most would-be criminals from attempting a robbery.
In the event an attempted robbery does occur, security cameras (seen and unseen) are effective at capturing evidence, while security personnel can respond immediately when alerted. Even if security personnel are unsuccessful in preventing theft, a proper surveillance system is likely to capture enough evidence for local authorities to investigate the crime — and recover any stolen assets, if possible.
In any operational cannabis facility, there will be a lot of in-store customer traffic, staff, and security personnel, and outside contractors in the facility at any given time. To closely monitor everyone as they enter and leave the facility, a strict front entry procedure should be enforced. Everyone who enters the facility should present a government issued ID, as well as sign-in and sign-out requirements so there’s a record of who’s in the facility at any given time.
Additionally, front entry security personnel should be able to seamlessly communicate with other security guards on the premises, as well as supervisory personnel within the facility. That way, in the event of an incident, front entry staff can seal the exits to prevent theft or help facilitate orderly exit of the facility in case of an accident, reducing the likelihood of injury.
Inventory management and asset fortification
Strict inventory control is a top priority when it comes to preventing theft. Product, such as harvested cannabis flower, concentrates, and extracts, should be stored in a vault protected with electronic or biometric locks. For added protection, product should be stored in a high-security fireproof burglar safe that meets TL-15 or TL-30 ratings.
In addition, supervisory personnel should develop thorough standard operating procedures (SOPs) that track product from seed to sale. This means every last item should be individually tracked, from the moment the seed is planted to when the customer buys the product. Using inventory management software or a seed-to-sale solution can help manage this process, and in many cases, using this software is required by law.
Cash must be properly stored and accounted for. This means it needs to be stored in secure tills and safes that are far away from entrances and exits. A bank grade currency counter should be used, as it provides precise counts quickly. Only authorized personnel should have access to rooms where money is stored and, whenever possible, these rooms should be supervised by senior security personnel.
It’s not just robbery that is a threat to cannabis facilities — fire could destroy crops and the cash stored on premises. This is an especially high risk for facilities where hydrocarbon extraction is performed, as solvents like butane and propane are flammable and potentially explosive. Should an accident occur, a fire protection system that includes fire alarms, sprinklers, fire extinguishers, and an emergency response plan could make the difference in saving lives and assets.
Cannabis facility security requirements in New York
While New York’s adult use market is still coming online, there are clear security requirements set for the state’s medical cannabis industry. These requirements are likely to be rather similar, if not the same, as those that will apply to adult use cannabis locations once licensees come online and begin operations. Here’s a closer look at what to expect when it comes to security requirements for cannabis in the Empire State.
Alarms and motion detectors
All cannabis facilities in New York must have a perimeter alarm that communicates with a designated team member in the facility, as well as a third-party commercial central monitoring station when any intrusion is detected.
Additionally, a failure notification system that provides audible text or visual notification of failures in the broader surveillance system must be installed. These failure notification systems must alert a designated team member within five minutes of failure by telephone, text, or email.
Video cameras must be placed in all areas containing cannabis or cannabis products, as well as all surveillance rooms and all points of entry and exit. Each of these areas must be properly lit for surveillance. Cameras must be directed at any location where cannabis or cannabis products are being handled, stored, or disposed. Cameras at entry and exit points should be angled to capture the identification of people entering and exiting the facility.
Continuous recording during hours of operation is required, especially when cannabis or cannabis products are being handled. Motion activated recording is required at all other times. Cameras should be configured for remote access and recordings stored for 60 days. These recordings must be made available for immediate reviewing by state authorities upon request. All cameras must be able to produce a clear, color still photo, and all recordings must include an accurate date and time stamp that does not obscure the image. Still images must be exportable in standard image formats, including .jpeg, .bmp, and .gif.
Cannabis facilities in New York are expected to meet strict storage standards. These include ensuring all safes and vaults remain securely locked at all times, with keys, combination numbers, passwords, and biometric data only accessible to authorized personnel. Additionally, cannabis and cannabis products must be stored in these secured areas at all times. All cannabis products must be stored in a manner that protects against physical, chemical, and microbial contamination.
Transportation to and from a cannabis facility is also a serious security concern, as cannabis products and cash in transit are generally at their most vulnerable. Prior to transportation, a shipping manifest must be completed in full and sent to the receiving facility at least two days before transportation occurs. A copy of the manifest must be kept in the vehicle during transportation. Copies must also be stored by the shipping and receiving facilities for a minimum of five years.
Cannabis and cannabis products in transit must be locked in a storage compartment not visible from the outside of the vehicle. Drivers are prohibited from making unnecessary stops while transporting cannabis and cannabis products. To further prevent attempted robberies, delivery times must be randomized and a minimum of two employees must staff the transport vehicle. Additionally, one employee must remain in the vehicle at all times so long as it contains cannabis or cannabis products.
In New York state, detailed visitor logs must be kept for anyone who accesses a secured area. These logs must include the person’s name, date, and time they accessed the area, and the purpose of their visit. In addition, visitor logs must be able to be made available upon request.
Cannabis facility security systems and equipment must be kept in a secure location. The system and equipment must be tested twice per year, and the results of these tests must be kept for a minimum of five years. All equipment must have the ability to remain operational during a power outage for up to eight hours.
Finally, the exterior of a cannabis facility must be kept illuminated at all times. Doorways and windows must be securely locked and protected from unauthorized entry.
Cannabis facility security is a serious matter
Cannabis businesses are unique and lucrative targets for robbery, and proper security measures can deter and prevent these crimes. In addition, in the event a robbery is successful or an accident threatens human life and well-being, a proper security system and well-trained personnel can be the difference between a disaster and a swift, safe resolution. It is not recommended to cut corners regarding security when it comes to your cannabis facility; hire trained professionals to help you devise, implement, and maintain a comprehensive security plan.