The Grassroots of Marijuana Security (Part Four)

The fourth in an ongoing series, this blog discusses the connectivity between security and the medical and recreational marijuana industry. In Part One, I explained a holistic security plan for the oversight of commercial cannabis operations. In Part Two, I described the security strategy required to support the construction, implementation, operation, and sustainability of a cannabis cultivation center or dispensary. In Part Three, I delved into securing the day-to-day business operations of a legalized marijuana enterprise. And for Part Four, I examine the emerging legal and regulatory trends in this industry, specifically OSHA compliance, buffer zone rules, unregulated dispensaries, and legalized cannabis clubs.

Safe, Secure, and Compliant

Federal and state regulators are taking a bigger interest in the cannabis industry as the market develops. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) ensures companies are providing safe working conditions for their employees and customers by operating at both the federal and state level, depending on how the state chooses to enforce safety laws. A knowledgeable consultant, well-versed in OSHA guidelines, will benefit your business and safeguard your operations, especially if you include him or her in your strategic security initiatives. Plus, your consultant will partner with you to prepare your company for any random and unannounced site visits by OSHA inspectors that could result in fines or, as a worst-case scenario, closing down your business.

What Does It Mean to Be in The Zone?

Typically, cannabis businesses cannot be located within 1,000 feet of a Drug Free Zone, which include child care centers, educational institutions, libraries, outdoor recreation facilities, schools, and youth activity centers. It’s a big hurdle for applicants if the space for their business is near one of these locations. And this zoning restriction doesn’t just apply to new entrepreneurs getting started in this industry—it also applies to current business owners who will have to adapt or lose their business, due to revised ordinances. For example, the Detroit City Council just passed new restrictions to curb an increase in unregulated dispensaries. The dispensaries that don’t meet these new regulations, including operating under a holistic security plan, can be closed.

Organized Crime and Minors

Two of the most serious regulations your business must follow are 1) ensuring that the product is not distributed to minors and 2) guaranteeing that revenue from marijuana sales does not go to criminal enterprises. Since many of these facilities cost millions of dollars to develop, build, and operate, failure to adhere to and enforce these requirements is a death sentence for most operations. Without the assistance of a subject matter expert in the law enforcement and security fields, you put yourself at risk of engaging in these prohibited activities to some degree. The logical first step in mitigating this risk is to develop an integrated and coordinated strategy with current police practices designed to prevent these crimes.

An Interesting Dichotomy

Washington, D.C. is considering the consumption, but not the sale, of cannabis at private clubs. The sale of recreational marijuana is illegal in the city, but liberal city council members are fighting with conservative anti-cannabis lawmakers to change the law. If this ordinance passes, residents will be able to consume marijuana at select locations. In the ever-changing world of the cannabis industry, one thing remains constant: an increased vigilance in security involvement with these enterprises will ensure the safety of their staff, protect the people frequenting these clubs, and safeguard their license to operate the business.

Super Bowl Needs Super Security

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl, which arguably has become the biggest one-day event on the planet. Other major sporting events like the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup garner worldwide coverage and enthusiasm, but those events are spread over weeks compared to this one-game world championship. Many make the case that the Super Bowl is more than just one day, and I wouldn’t argue against it. An assortment of events leads up to the big game including media appearances, corporate functions, and NFL-experience sessions for the fans. All this hoopla and global attention call for the need for unparalleled security measures. The Super Bowl certainly requires super-sized security and I’ll explain how to tackle this challenge.  

Strength in Numbers                                                       

An enormous number of stakeholders is involved in the creation, design, and implementation of a security plan for a Super Bowl. I have had the opportunity to contribute to the security plans for previous Super Bowls in San Diego and New Orleans. Based on my experiences, the best practice-based approach begins the process by identifying the entities associated with the event and separating them into the following categories: federal, state, local, and private. As the next step divides these groups within their respective categories, I will use the Feds as an example. Some of the federal agencies involved are FBI, Secret Service, FEMA, TSA, FAA, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and U.S. Coast Guard. This list is not inclusive and other federal agencies will contribute to the security plan.

It’s Important to Know Your Role

Continuing with the federal entities as an example, it’s important to separate the responsibilities of the partners that will be contributing to the security design. Here is what those roles could look like by agency:
• FBI—collecting intelligence, monitoring terrorist groups
• Secret Service—assisting with the creation of the security plan
• FEMA—preparing for any mass casualty incident
• TSA—coordinating domestic and international flights associated with the event
• FAA—implementing no fly zones for aircraft including drones
• U.S. Customs and Border Patrol—screen foreign visitors, airspace security
• U.S. Coast Guard—protecting the waters near the venue

These roles are a microcosm of the prevention, planning, and preparedness that goes into a security plan for any event the scale of a Super Bowl. Think about what is being done at the state and local level. The host city is tapping into every neighboring jurisdiction for support from police departments, fire departments, emergency managers, and county agencies.

Divide and Conquer

Another important piece to the puzzle is to combine these assets into a multi-jurisdictional structure that can maximize your resources. The committee structure has been very effective and allows for these different entities to work side-by-side. These committees represent various areas of responsibility, such as credentialing, legal, tactical, intelligence, and cyber security. For example, the Emergency Medical Committee will have representatives from hospitals, ambulance services, physicians, EMTs, emergency management agencies, fire departments, and the CDC (Center for Disease Control). One of the greatest challenges is to ensure every security- and safety-related discipline has been accounted for.

What Else Goes Into the Plan?

You need to establish additional security measures at the airports, hotels, practice facilities, air space, transportation routes, trains, and waterways. Security perimeters have to be created along with the screening of people, packages, and vehicles such as x-raying the cargo of trucks making deliveries to the stadium. Chemical and biological sensors will need to be placed around the site to detect any harmful gases. Fans will need to pass through metal detection systems and be subjected to baggage inspection and pat-downs. Counterfeit ticketing and ticket scalping will be addressed along with fake merchandising. So, as you can see, a lot of moving parts must be considered to provide a holistic security plan for an event like the Super Bowl. Just make sure your plans are super-sized.