A Complete Guide To Cannabis Security Plans
The cannabis industry keeps growing day by day. It has now become a lucrative business opportunity in many places in the United States. However, there are many requirements to meet with most regulated businesses, including a facility’s security.
Security is one of the most significant challenges to consider for the cannabis industry. It is a good idea for companies that grow, process, and dispense cannabis to safeguard their facilities, employees, reputation, and products.
If an individual or a company decides to start a cannabis business, investing in a well-equipped cannabis security solution is a must. A cannabis security solution should be supplemented with employee training, legal compliance, and operational procedure integration. Security compliance standards can vary per state, which can make things more complex.
Why Cannabis Security Plans Are Important
A cannabis security plan is a comprehensive layout that includes three essential parts: a security technology plan, a management plan, and an operations plan. Security values are an embodiment of every cannabis business’s culture. This is why businesses often hire third-party security professionals with a deep understanding of the cannabis space, local and state regulations, and best practices to design a well-thought-out security strategy.
Having a security plan for your cannabis facility is very important as it addresses potential risks such as internal theft, burglaries, and robberies. It also addresses employee safety, nuisance abatement, and off-site operations. Each plan uses a detailed procedure grounded in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) technology, testing and auditing, operational security, supporting procedures/policies, and training.
New Business License Applications
When applying for a cannabis business license, the application process and requirements vary by state. However, most applications generally ask for details such as:
- Applicant’s personal information
- Operation plans or standard operating procedures
- Manufacturing process details
- Ability to operate
- Financial standing
- Detailed information about infrastructure
- What benefit will the company offer to the community?
- Economic impact and diversity,
- Applicants’ organization, ownership, capital, and tax status
- Quality assurance and staffing
- Real property and equipment
- Technical and technological ability
- Sales and dispensing process
- Geographic distribution
Whether you apply for a cultivating, manufacturing, or distributing license, you are required to develop a standard operating procedure (SOP). This must include information about your facility or establishment’s security solutions such as access control systems, employee identification procedures, lighting, perimeter security, record-keeping processes, surveillance cameras, and alarms in your facility. It also takes into account your employee background screening process. It is best to take as much time as you need when going through this process as you would not want to rush and commit mistakes. Maintaining honesty when providing the information is also very important.
Legal & Security Compliance
A lack of a well-designed cannabis security system is subject to legal penalties for non-compliance. These legal penalties can vary depending on the regulations in place for the particular state. Penalties can be severe, such as forced closure of the business, jail time, or license revocation.
In the U.S, cannabis security compliance is complex and can sometimes be confusing because of the conflicting laws on the legality of cannabis.
As of this writing, cannabis is legal for adult recreation and medical purposes in 11 states. 34 other states have legalized marijuana, but only for medical use. At the federal level, marijuana is still a Schedule-1 substance, which technically makes it illegal. Due to this delicate legal landscape, cannabis security compliance is mandatory.
Federal & State Cannabis Security Regulations
There are no federal regulations for marijuana dispensaries, cultivators, or any other cannabis-related business. This is because, on a federal level, marijuana use and sale are still considered illegal. The landmark 2018 Farm Bill only legalized the cultivation and sale of industrial hemp at the national level. The Controlled Substances Act still regulates cannabis products with a THC content exceeding 0.3%.
State regulations for cannabis security are comprehensive, though they differ from one state to another. States such as Ohio, Montana, Arizona, and Massachusetts have legal marijuana only for medical usage. In contrast, states such as California, Alaska, Colorado, and Nevada allow both medical and adult-use recreational marijuana.
Types of Cannabis Security Plans
There are two types of cannabis security plans. Dispensary Security Plans are used for cannabis dispensaries and warehouses. Growing/Cultivation Facilities Security Plans are used in protecting the facilities where you grow and cultivate cannabis.
Dispensary Security Plan
Dispensaries often carry decent amounts of cash and expensive products, which makes them a natural target for crime. Your Cannabis Dispensaries Security Plan should address any requirements listed in local or state laws and regulations. Ensure the plan addresses issues like physical security systems like alarms, security guards, door locks, video surveillance, security personnel training, and delivery and transportation security.
Growing/Cultivation Facility Security Plan
When creating a Cannabis Growing/Cultivation Facility Security Plan, make sure you are familiar with your state or local laws and regulations. Your plan should address factors like access control, record-keeping, alarm systems, documentation of security operations, site assessment, storage systems, and video surveillance monitoring.
How To Create a Cannabis Security Plan
The primary purpose of a cannabis security plan is to provide a safe environment for your facility’s customers, employees, and visitors, as well as adhere to the legal requirements. When creating a cannabis security plan, one must keep in mind both facility and product security. Cannabis growers or dispensers must design a comprehensive set of security-related procedures to follow.
Checklist for Writing Cannabis Security Plans
Here is a checklist to follow when creating an effective cannabis security plan.
- Know the Laws and Regulations. Knowing the state/local laws and regulations will help you avoid any legal-related issues.
- Outline Your Cannabis Security Plan. The main sections of a security plan include an introduction, the operations security description and strategy, and the facility security description and plan. Each section should be described in detail, outlining all potential security problems and solutions.
- Security Floor Plans and Policy Considerations. Make sure to include sketches and blueprints depicting the following:
- Security cameras
- Electronic access systems
- Information on diagrams and schedules
- System specifications and capabilities
- Information on how often you plan to maintain these systems
- Cut sheets and elevations
Avoid Common Mistakes. When creating a cannabis security plan, you should always be honest. Make sure to double-check the details to avoid mistakes that might get your plan rejected.
What Level of Detail Do I Need?
There are no limitations as to the details you can include in your security plan. The number of details you add could depend on the level of competition for licenses in your location. Make sure your security plan is as thorough and detailed as possible. This will set you apart as a responsible company. Regulators will censor the public version of your security plan for safety if you have an open application process.
Can I Just Buy a Premade Security Plan?
There are several security plan templates on the internet that you can buy. However, using templates is not advisable because they might not be flexible, and there is always the risk of your plan looking unprofessional in the eyes of regulators. In most cases, templates that can be downloaded online are not comprehensive, and they may not be tailored to the requirements of your state or county. It is always a best practice to consult a cannabis business or security consultant and a lawyer specializing in cannabis law.
Cannabis Industry Advisor has the experience, diverse backgrounds, consultants & security experts to give your cannabis business the best chance to succeed.
How to Write your Cannabis Security Plan
A comprehensive cannabis security plan should have an introduction and sections for both facility and operational security.
- Introduction. For this section, you will need to clearly explain that you have an all-inclusive security plan that fulfills all the regulators’ requirements. This is where you introduce your security partner as well. Make sure you outline, in detail, your security partner’s physical experience and technical ability within cannabis security. After the summary and introduction, you have to state the process of how you physically created the plan.
- Facility Security. After the introductory section, you will have to describe the exact details of your facility. Here are the points that you need to include in your facility security section.
- Facility design
- Equipment to be used
- Physical address
- Description of the property and its surrounding neighborhood
- Summary of facility security measures
- A detailed account of your perimeter security
- The company providing the security guards to your facility
- Video surveillance equipment
- How authorized employees and visitors will access your facility
- Procedures for other visitors; such as first-responders, law enforcement officers, and members of the media
- How movement among the facility access points will be controlled
- How breaches, emergencies, and other incidents will be handled
- Operational Security: Here, you prove that your daily operations and business administration can support any physical security standard. This means that you will explain how to train your staff and maintain any security records. This outlines staffing procedures (e.g., background checks, training), inventory security, and information systems security.
10 Things Your Security Plan Should Include
Access controls are an integral part of any sound security system and must always be installed in cannabis facilities where there is an assortment of staff and personnel. Your security plan should indicate how you plan to control and regulate all forms of access to your facilities, as well as how you plan to maintain your access control system.
Product Storage Locks
There is no such thing as too much security, especially in the cannabis industry. Even if you already have access control systems, you can still have additional locks in place for your storage area. Storing cannabis products (that are not on display) in a locked and access-controlled storage room is legally required in some states.
Ensure you install an alarm system to notify you and the authorities whenever an attempted break-in or theft occurs.
Security Cameras & Video Surveillance System
Many jurisdictions legally require video surveillance in the important areas of your cannabis facility. Make sure you purchase high-quality security cameras. You also have the option to opt for remote monitoring, which lets you observe your facilities at any time and from anywhere.
Cannabis Delivery and Transportation Security
Cannabis is highly vulnerable to theft and tampering, making transporting cannabis, cash, or other items for your business risky. Instead of using an ordinary van to transport your product, use armored transport.
Security Guards and Security Personnel
Employing physical security, such as security guards, may also prove helpful. You can hire experienced cannabis security companies to provide guards for your facility.
Restricted Access Areas
Access to important areas should be restricted to only the employees that need to access these areas. Regarding wanted visitors, you can issue badges, have their identities logged, and have them escorted by security guards or approved employees. You can also use safes, vaults, and key card locked doors to restrict access.
You must clearly describe how you will train your staff on all the security procedures, measures, and policies. Each role of every security personnel must also be indicated. Training your staff in security measures is essential. This will enable them to respond in the best way possible if dangerous scenarios such as break-ins or robberies.
Even though many states don’t focus on IT security, you still must protect your surveillance video data and records. You should look into employing lockdown features for your POS devices and terminals to protect them from hacking and malware. Some best practices when it comes to network security are:
- Implementing 2FA on all your devices and services
- Installing antivirus software on your devices
- Sectioning your network to keep unsecured data away from secured data
- Install and monitoring firewall appliances
- Implementing strong password policies
Emergency Notification System
It is essential to set up an emergency notification system that will alert you and relevant authorities whenever unwanted situations arise.
Questions Your Security Plan Should Answer
A well-written security plan should provide clear answers to these questions:
- What are the security systems that will be utilized in your facility?
- How will your business prevent employee theft?
- What is the equipment that you will need to store your cannabis products securely?
- How will your business handle security policies and procedures?
- How can staff training and education minimize the security risks for your business?
- How will your inventory be secured during and after business hours?
What Security Equipment and Systems Will Your Facility Use?
While you can freely customize your cannabis security based on your needs, some essential equipment and systems are standard to cannabis businesses. Your security systems should always employ:
- Key card access points
- Traditional surveillance
- Digital video monitors
- Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tracking
How Will Your Business Prevent Employee Theft?
You can minimize the risk of employee theft by:
- Building access controls systems with integrated video surveillance
- Employing strict documentation of operational procedures
- Running background checks during the hiring process
- Training your staff on the best cannabis security practices
What Equipment is Needed to Securely Store Cannabis Products?
Most cannabis growers and dispensers use locked storage containers such as safes, locked retail containers, locked display cases, along with locked and camera-monitored doors.
How Will Your Business Handle Security Policies & Procedures?
After designing sound security policies and procedures, make sure you and your staff don’t forget to implement them. These policies should be a central part of your facilities. Make sure that all personnel are familiar with these procedures. When necessary, take the time to update these policies.
How Will Staff Training and Education Minimize Security Risks?
Employing experienced and well-trained staff will make your business run smoothly. Untrained employees can make costly mistakes that can lead to security risks. Security risks occur during cases such as when untrained employees could email unencrypted data, take home sensitive information, and allow unencrypted data on their mobile phones.
How Will Your Inventory be Secured During and After Business Hours?
By employing security systems such as access control and video surveillance that can function 24/7, your products are sure to be secured at any time of day.
How to Format Your Cannabis Security Plan
If your location/state has a particular format for cannabis security plans, you should directly follow that plan. If your state doesn’t have an existing format, you can try your best to professionally and comprehensively represent your security plan. Make sure you address all requirements serially and include easy-to-follow diagrams when necessary.
Cannabis Security Compliance Narrative
There are compliance narratives that you should follow when securing your cannabis dispensary license. These include all of your security procedures and safeguards such as:
- Active shooter response plan
- Information security plan
- Employee background checks
- Emergency operating procedures
- Crowd control plan
- Restricted access areas
- Security system maintenance & backup
- Vault and theft prevention plan
- Community security and outreach program
- Cannabis disposal
- Security Equipment Maintenance Program
- Cannabis storage
- Site construction and notification
- Cannabis goods display security
- Transaction Security
- Dispensary Site Access and Capacity
Cannabis Security System Descriptions
This is a complete breakdown of all your security system types. It should cover your access control systems, video surveillance systems, intrusion/alarm systems, all security compliance definitions, and the standards of your dispensary’s security within each system’s description.
Dispensary Security Floorplans
These are security system designs that are an overlay to your dispensary floor plan. They include both interior and exterior video surveillance, access control, and intrusion systems.
Description of Security Vendors
This is an overview of the private security firms that are helping you throughout the whole process of pre-construction, construction, and post-construction of your dispensary. It also includes information on the core capabilities of these organizations and the roles they play.
Private Security Contracts
All dispensary applicants should initiate legally binding contracts with companies whose services they are employing. It is advised that applicants should conduct due diligence before signing any contract.