Prevent Break-Ins and Theft at Your Cannabis Facility

  • Intruders shoot an employee after breaking into the AzGoGreen co-op in Tempe
  • Gunmen kill 2 security guards while robbing a Bakersfield dispensary
  • The owner of a Spokane medical dispensary shoots a burglar in self-defense
  • A security guard is shot during a botched holdup of a San Diego dispensary
  • A thief posing as a delivery man sprays bear mace on employees before ransacking a Colorado dispensary

Lots of cash and high-quality cannabis makes cannabis establishments a favorite target of burglars and armed robbers—not to mention inside jobs and diversion of product by dishonest employees. Adding to the urgency of the need for site security is the fact that it’s essential to getting and keeping a business license. 

Implementing a Site Security Program

The key to preventing security incidents, and the liability they can result in, is to implement a 3-phase security program.

Phase 1: Security Hazard Assessment

Hazard assessment involves analyzing your current situation to identify and assess security hazards at your facility. 

Physical Security: Start by considering the physical dimensions of the facility, both interior and exterior, including entry and access points, parking lots, reception and other common areas and the geographic area in which the facility is located, such as a rough neighborhood in an urban area, etc. 

Previous Incidents: Look at least 3 years’ worth of police records and incident reports involving the property and neighborhood. Figure out what happened in each incident, including apparent causes and steps, if any, to prevent recurrences. 

Assess Your Own People: Recognize that security threats can come not just from third parties but also from your own employees. So you need to consider the physical and mental characteristics of the people who work for you and determine whether any of them is likely to engage in criminal acts. Predicting human behavior is anything but an exact science, even for trained psychologists and other behavior experts.

Phase 2: Select and Implement Security Controls

Next, you need to select controls to eliminate or manage the risks you identify in your assessment.

Physical Security Measures: State program rules require owners to implement physical security systems to prevent break-in and theft. Such systems typically include: 

Access Controls: You must prevent unauthorized entry both into the facility and into limited access areas within the facility, in other words, rooms where cannabis or plants are kept. Access controls typically include locks procedures.

Lighting: Program rules typically require owners to ensure that the inside and outside of the facility is well lit. Rule of thumb: Lighting must be sufficient to deter intruders and allow for surveillance without creating a nuisance to neighbors. 

Security Alarm Systems: Facilities must be equipped with security alarm systems to alert law enforcement and emergency responders of security incidents and emergencies. Such devices typically include: 

  • Hard-wired or interconnected systems that send a remote or local audible, visual, or electronic signal;
  • Motion detectors;
  • Duress alarms that send a silent signal when users enter a designated code;
  • Panic alarms that emit an audible emergency signal; and
  • Holdup alarms that users can secretly trigger by a concealed button.

Video Surveillance Systems: Facilities must install 24/7 video surveillance camera systems covering key interior areas—like points of sale, entry and exit—and the exterior. Program rules typically set out detailed specifications for camera coverage and equipment.

Safes and Vaults: Many states require facilities to keep their cannabis in suitable safes or vaults in a locked room during closing hours.

IT Controls: A number of states specify that the security system must also include IT capacity to detect and prevent theft and diversion caused by tampering with the facility’s computers and electronic records systems.

Work/Administrative Controls: A site security program must include controls addressing how work is carried out. These include:

Employee Policies and Procedures: Including employee criminal records and background checks, anti-theft policies and mandatory drug testing.

Safe Work Procedures: There should be written procedures for employees to follow to carry out dangerous or safety-sensitive tasks, including entering limited access areas, handling cash and sounding the alarm.

Security Training: Employees must receive appropriate security training and instruction on security hazards and what your security program does to prevent them. Make sure you keep written records documenting the security training provided to each employee and verifying that they not only received but understood their training. You can find that out by requiring them to pass a test or demonstrate what they learned, and observing them to ensure they actually follow their training.

Inventory Controls: State program rules require facilities to carefully track their inventories and account for everything from seed to stem.

Employee Incident Reporting Protocol: Develop a system that employees can use to notify management if they witness or are otherwise aware of security incidents at the facility, including theft or diversion of cannabis or plants, and acts or threats of violence.

Investigation Procedures: Make sure you have procedures for investigating reports of theft, diversion, workplace violence and other security situations. You also need disciplinary policies and procedures you can use to resolve security situations to the extent they involve other facility employees.

Procedures for Reporting Security Incidents to Authorities: You need procedures for notifying state authorities of security incidents that occur at your facility.

Security Equipment Maintenance and Inspection Protocol: Most program rules require the facility (or a professional security firm it hires) to test and inspect alarms, security cameras and other equipment at least once every 30 days.

Recordkeeping: Last but not least, you need a policy for keeping the appropriate security records, including surveillance tapes and recordings, results of security equipment tests, security system failure notifications or other equipment failures, inventory discrepancies that may be attributable to theft, or diversion or loss of cannabis, etc.

Phase 3: Monitor Your Security Program

Designate one or more competent persons to review the effectiveness of the measures and procedures set out in your security program at appropriate intervals. You should review your program at least once a year, and after:

  • Significant changes to operations or equipment;
  • Security incidents occur; and/or
  • Any other indications suggesting that current security measures and procedures may be inadequate.

Records you should use to evaluate the effectiveness of your program include:

  • Security equipment inspection reports;
  • Results of tests of security cameras, alarms and other equipment;
  • Surveillance footage and recordings;
  • Records of investigations of security incidents or threats; and
  • Police crime data on violence in the area or neighborhood your workplace is located.

You need to have an account to access this content!

Please Login...

Email Address


or Register for a Free account.

Email Address