8 expert tips can help marijuana businesses ensure safety

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Image of a security camera being installed

(This story originally appeared in MJBizMagazine.)

If you find the idea of working with police who once busted marijuana entrepreneurs to be onerous, you’re not alone.

But for business owners willing to build understanding and invest in security, the relationship that ensues can be mutually beneficial.

Cannabis entrepreneurs will find that local police can help protect their operations and employees, while police find that familiarizing themselves with marijuana businesses makes their jobs easier and safer.

For one thing, most police departments are willing to advise licensed marijuana businesses on their security plans at no cost.

“Almost every police and sheriff’s department that I’ve ever known, if you call them and say, ‘I would like to get security advice and a security briefing for my location,’ most departments will send a police officer out to walk the property with you and give you some tips – and they’ll do that for free,” said Kyle Kazan, the founder and CEO of Glass House Brands, a vertically integrated cannabis business in California, and a former patrol officer in Torrance.

During such visits, police might share information including their response times and which alarm systems operate best with their departments – plus tips, such as turning off motion sensors if there is a dog or cat in the room.

“Always include local police and regulators in the design process. Seek their input and their guidance,” Kazan advised.

While cannabis business owners stand to benefit from these visits, most police departments also value them.

“They don’t know if they’re going to be in a dangerous situation in your business at 2 in the morning. If they’ve actually been in your business, then they have some familiarity with it,” Kazan said.

Security experts advise cannabis business owners to solicit advice from private security companies, which will usually make a first visit to the business for free.

If a cannabis business implements good advice about alarms, cameras, lights, safes and other precautions, intruders could be gone before product is stolen, sparing the chance of a dangerous confrontation between police and intruders.

Forging good relationships with local police means not only complying with regulations but asking officers what safety and security measures they want you to take – even if those measures involve going above and beyond what’s required by regulators.

“We go to the police and say, ‘We know what the state and local regs want, but what do you want?’” said Tony Gallo, founder and CEO of the Sapphire Risk Advisory Group, a cannabis security consulting business in Texas.

For example, a police chief in one California town asked Gallo’s retail clients if they would put their address on the roof in 3-foot-high letters so that if a helicopter flew overhead, officers could see the address.

“It was not in the city or state regs, but we did it. And because of that, the police chief told the city council that we were very cooperative, and we won the license,” Gallo said.

Other requests Gallo’s clients have received include placing large, weighted flowerpots as barriers against cars that try to crash into stores, installing an extra entry gate, conducting police walkthroughs before new store openings and complying with specific camera and lighting requests.

“If we are asked to put weighted flowerpots in the front of your building, and that’s going to make the chief of police happy, I’m going to put flowerpots in front of the building,” Gallo said.

Beyond forging relationships with police, Kazan said that marijuana business owners are entitled to the same protection as any other company.

“You’re running a legal business. Avail yourself of those resources there – you’re paying for them,” he said. “It’s good for you, and it’s good for a lot of the law enforcement officers.”

Here are eight tips police and cannabis security agencies recommend:

  1. Product management.
  2. Access-control systems.
  3. Cameras and lighting.
  4. Alarm systems.
  5. Handling deliveries.
  6. Cash management.
  7. Personnel and training.
  8. Security costs.