The Grassroots of Marijuana Security (Part One)

To say the medical and recreational cannabis industry is precipitously growing (pun definitely intended) could be the understatement of the century. And before jumping into this emerging multi-million dollar business (over $700 million in sales in Colorado alone last year), you need to know some important facts. First, the entire endeavor starts and potentially ends with an exhaustive application package to the state where your facility (dispensary or cultivation) will be located. This is an expensive piece to the puzzle and could cost millions. I compare the evaluation and scoring of the application package to legalized gambling. It’s an extremely competitive process, you are not guaranteed to be issued a license, and unfortunately more losers than winners emerge.

I Love When a Plan Comes Together

Every successful business venture begins with a plan and this industry is no exception. Your security plan should include procedures for the oversight of the dispensing and/or cultivating operations that ensure accurate record keeping, patient confidentiality, and a ubiquitous security posture. The plan should address technology (digital video cameras, automated access control, biometric readers, and intrusion detection alarm systems); processes (security policies, incident response, visitor management, prohibited items, and training); personnel (on-site security and transportation security); and liaison with critical third parties (state officials) and first responders (police and fire). Well, that’s the 30,000-foot view. Since the plans I have helped create are about 100 pages in length, I obviously can’t fit everything in a blog—unless you want to read “War and Peace”—but I’ll try to include the most important points.

Location, Location, Location!

As you know location trumps all and in this industry, a number of zoning restrictions will determine the location of your facility. You also need to demonstrate why the location is suitable for public and patient access, parking, handicap compliance, safe cultivation and dispensing, product handling, and storage. You’ll need to articulate how the business will support the immediate community and how your security will negate any detrimental impact. Additionally, security schematics will indicate fire and life safety systems, CCTV, card readers, burglar alarms, panic buttons, fencing, and gates, and diagrams will depict the property, boundary lines, exterior landscape, and interior layout, as well as storage and delivery areas.

How to Separate Yourself From the Competition  

Let’s start with exhibiting industry (and state) compliant labor and employment practices. You will need a safe, secure, and healthy working environment that will include background screening, emergency preparedness, workplace violence mitigation, code of conduct, and an employee assistance program. Other ways you can differentiate yourself are to show support to the local community, benefits to the socio-economic status of the residents, and coordination with the law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical personnel. Remember, you’re creating a strategy to protect a business that is (presently) in violation of federal law. It’s a cash only business that requires safes, vaults, armed guards, and armored vehicles to transport product and money.

It’s a Town Full of Losers and I’m Pulling Out of Here to Win   

Sorry, I needed to include at least one Bruce Springsteen reference. Today’s security climate offers an opportune time for a holistic safety and security approach related to the daily operations and activities of this emerging industry. The design and creation of a comprehensive security plan to mitigate risk to employees, customers, products, operations, and brand can and should be addressed directly by implementing security strategies through an integrated approach in a number of areas I have addressed. In Illinois the security plan accounted for 20% of the overall score for the application package. When applications were evaluated equally, whether or not the license was granted was ultimately determined by the strength of the security plan. Remember that your security methodology along with the competence of your security practitioner may be the tipping points to your success or failure.

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