In general, designing a marijuana security system is at-par in complexity to securing banks and laboratories handling controlled substances. Not only are marijuana businesses affected by the regulatory environment, but they must also address challenging and diverse security issues.
When it comes to building a marijuana dispensary security plan, it’s important to understand that there’s no uniform solution applicable for every need. Rather, you’ll have to put your dispensary through a site assessment to determine if its exact risks are identified, which then results in a properly designed and effective security system.
Prior to the legalization of recreational marijuana, the legal marijuana market was comprised of medical marijuana producers. For the past few years these legal medical marijuana producers were required to comply with stringent security requirements laid-out by Health Canada under Subdivision C of the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR).
The regulatory environment for marijuana dispensaries is less clear, especially as each province has the right to shape its respective marijuana market at-will. Ontario and Quebec have opted to sell recreational marijuana through provincially-owned vendors, which completely removes the prospect of private sector retailers.
However, British Columbia and Alberta are permitting privately-owned marijuana dispensaries. In fact, the Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission (AGLC) has already set the specific security requirements prospective dispensaries must fulfill in order to be considered for a license (which will be in scarce supply as only 250 store-licenses will be available in the first year).
Importance of Dispensary Security Plan Regulations
It turns out that government-mandated security requirements for dispensaries aren’t any less than those required of marijuana producers. In fact, the AGLC establishes from the onset that your marijuana dispensary security system must be professionally designed and installed.
Failing to comply with the AGLC’s requirements will result in losing your opportunity to sell recreational marijuana in Alberta. If not identical, then comparable security requirements could emerge in BC, which will leave these recommendations as best practices you could use to prepare for security regulations in your province.
With limited opportunities nationwide, it’s vital that you take your marijuana dispensary security efforts seriously. Otherwise, you could lose out on opportunities or – should you secure a license – lose it later and see your dispensary shut-down.
However, besides government compliance, your dispensary security plan must also comply with insurance requirements by properly securing your goods and – not least – ensuring the safety of your employees and customers.
How to Get Marijuana Security Clearance from the Government
The following components, though legally required in Alberta, align with industry best practices for securing your marijuana dispensary security system. Adhering to these practices will ensure that your employees, customers and cannabis goods are fully protected from threats.
This is essential as it identifies your marijuana business’ exact risks and requirements. Your dispensary’s location and its surrounding building layout will factor into your risk-level and, in turn, determine what’s to be included in your marijuana dispensary security system.
Unlike legal marijuana producers, dispensaries have specific risks resulting from the fact that they’re retail sites. Dispensaries operating in shared-occupant buildings – such as shopping plazas – will not have control of every entrance nor can they control the flow of people in those buildings, especially outside of store hours.
These risks have to be accounted for in order to determine the systems necessary for securing your dispensary and your employees. A dispensary operating in an area with a history of greater break-in rates will have a higher risk-level compared to an area with a lower rate.
The goal of your dispensary security plan is to insert obstacles between threats and your assets. In dispensaries, this means securing the entry and exit points you can control as well as building a proper barrier denying unauthorized access to your cannabis supplies.
Securing Entry & Exit Points
Under the AGLC, this starts with installing 1.5 mm hollow metal doors with 1.9 mm metal frames and tamper-proof hinges. These doors must be installed with commercial-grade locks equipped with tamper-proof strike plates, with the locking device penetrating the door frame at 1.25 cm or deeper.
The customer entrance and receiving door must be built of commercial grade material, so as to prevent unauthorized access at both ends.
Cannabis Storage Room
The AGLC requires you to store cannabis that’s not displayed to customers in a locked storage room with controlled access available to only authorized staff. This room must be constructed in a specific way – i.e. with Flattened Metal Mesh of EMMA 557-99 style with a diamond opening of 0.563”x1.688” and nominal strand thickness of 0.120”.
You must also mount steel or steel mesh on the outside of the room in accordance with AGLC requirements – i.e. support all edges with anti-spread bracing, align sheet edges at all seams and reinforce sheets with screws.
You must have 24/7 visual monitoring in place through the integration of a digital closed-circuit television (CCTV) system. The AGLC requires that the CCTV cameras be placed in a way that enables them to clearly capture footage in the following areas: point-of-sale, receiving, the main floor or customer area; and the secured cannabis storage room.
CCTV is also your sole means of maintaining a visual monitoring presence outside of store hours, especially at night and during holidays.
The camera quality and area lighting must be sufficient enough to clearly identify all persons who had entered or exited your store. This includes employee-only areas, which helps deter internal theft.
You must maintain a minimum of 60 days worth of footage on-premise and submit that footage to the AGLC or law-enforcement when requested. The footage must be in a common/readable format with the capacity for generating real-time digital colour video and still images.
Solutions such as VERI-F-EYE are essential. VERI-F-EYE integrates CCTV to your intrusion detection system, enabling law-enforcement to better prepare for responding to break-ins at your dispensary while also guaranteeing that you have a video recording of the incident.
In addition to installing a CCTV surveillance system, your dispensary is required to test every camera and its recording equipment on a weekly basis. You must keep a record of the results, which the AGLC has the right to request. CCTV equipment must be functioning at all times.
Your marijuana dispensary security system must thwart threats at all times, especially outside of your store hours where no one will be present. The intrusion detection system must include an alarm system that detects unauthorized access or attempts (including tampering) of all secured entry points, your customer door and your cannabis storage room.
In case of a break-in or attempted break-in, you must get your intrusion detection system immediately repaired.
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You’re also required to pair your intrusion detection system with a law-enforcement response system. This includes a panic/help-button at the point-of-sale area for employees in case of a robbery or another threat. However, it’s best practice to ensure that your alarm also triggers a response from the police, which could be your first-respondents during nighttime break-ins.
You’re required by law (AGLC) to secure your entry/exit points, customer entrance and access to your cannabis supply room with access controls. This includes installing swipe cards and/or passkeys.
You’re not permitted to have a ‘master key’ that enables total access with a single code or card. In addition, your senior security officer must change your dispensary’s passkeys on a regular basis to protect against inadvertent or intentional leaks.
Modern access control systems enable you to protect your dispensary from typical retail issues, such as employee turnover (e.g. you can delete an ex-employee’s passkey).
Guaranteeing Employee Safety
The ACMPR requires licensed producers to submit background security checks and fingerprints of every key individual involved in the business.
It would be a smart decision for dispensaries to also conduct background checks of their employees, thus protecting themselves from risks such as internal theft or linkage to the illegal marijuana trade and other criminal activity. In addition, it also protects your employees and customers.
Detailed Security SOPs
Given how your dispensary security plan involves many complex systems – including technology for visual monitoring, access control and intrusion detection – and many processes detailing the use of those systems, it’s imperative to have standard operating procedures (SOP).
SOPs enable your employees to properly implement your security plan, ensuring that your risks are properly addressed on a daily basis with minimal exposure to mistakes or negligence.
This is all the more important in times of crises, such as break-ins or robberies, wherein your employees will need to tread carefully to diffuse the threat. Your management may need to cooperate with law-enforcement and/or insurance providers as well. In each of these situations, SOPs are essential in providing clarity and guidance to your staff.
The law and the security realities of a marijuana dispensary require the involvement of a professional security company in your dispensary security plan.
Right from the onset you need experts to properly identify all of your security requirements and connect you with systems that function to a high-standard – with no failure and strong resistance to tampering – while readily satisfying all regulatory requirements.
Whether you own a single dispensary or a chain of stores, a professional security company will provide you with essential services. These include active monitoring of your CCTV feed during high-risk periods as well as maintaining and even repairing your systems when required.
A professional dispensary security plan – supported by a professional security company – will also demonstrate that you’ve taken all necessary steps to mitigate risk, enabling you to adhere to industry standards for insurance and seeking protection in case of a crisis.
Correctly implementing a security plan the first time will shield you from the costs of poor and non-compliant implementation, which can result in the loss of your license, theft of goods and harm to your employees and customers.
Are you looking to get a concrete start on designing your dispensary security plan? Then contact us at Logixx to leverage our 25+ year experience in professionally implementing security systems for an array of complex industries.