How to Protect Your Cannabis Business From Crime and Liability

Simple tips for staying safe.

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This story originally appeared on Marijuana Venture

Municipalities across the country are showing troubling signs of a potential multi-year crime wave, as robberies, auto thefts, and homicides have increased in the past two years. Unsurprisingly, cannabis dispensaries are one of the most targeted businesses. With a clientele that almost always pays in cash and a product that moves well on the street, cannabis businesses have unique risk profiles that are likely going to be a continued target.

Dispensaries seem to be impacted more than most. In one egregious example last year, police in San Francisco failed to publicly communicate that thieves had targeted five dispensaries on a single night, and might be targeting other nearby dispensaries.

In the following days, millions of dollars’ worth of product was stolen from some of the largest cannabis retailers in the country.

With authorities either unwilling or incapable of offering appropriate protection, dispensary owners are largely on their own in terms of security. Alarms, locks, video surveillance, personnel training and security guards are all necessary aspects of a security system for a dispensary. These, however, present their own issues.

RELATED: At Least 15 Oakland Cannabis Retailers Hit By Roving Thieves In One Weekend

Armed versus unarmed

Clear and consistent security protocols help security and staff maintain a safe work environment and avoid costly liabilities.

Businesses that are likely targets for burglaries and robberies often necessitate the use of armed guards. However, armed guards can present their own problems. If an armed guard injures or kills a suspected criminal (or, even worse, a customer or bystander), it could open you up to even worse legal culpability if they did not have the proper training and certifications or follow proper procedure.

That is why it is necessary to have the best supplemental security training for your personnel. Training your guards to not only best conform to city, state and federal laws regarding premises defense, but also how to best work with your security plan and system, can potentially save lives and your business. Each business is unique and requires customized solutions, both procedurally and physically.

RELATED: The Increase in Dispensary Crime Just Reaffirms the Need for Cannabis Banking

Protecting your business form liability

In order to protect your business from increased liability, review the following considerations with your current or potential security guard vendor:

– Ensure that your security guard personnel understand applicable cannabis rules and regulations, both on the state and local level. Your security personnel are an extension of your business and represent you. Some municipalities even regulate that commercial cannabis licensees are responsible for the actions of their guards.

– As the client, make sure that you not only get your money’s worth, but the services provided fit your operational needs. Ask for the guard vendor’s standard operating procedures and provide thoughtful input as needed so your business needs are met. There are many vendors who would gladly consider your input. Your guards should help you avoid liability, not add to it.

– In most states, security guard companies have their own governing bodies, similar to the cannabis industry. For example, in California, a security guard company must complete training and be certified by the Bureau of Security and Investigation Services. To be licensed to provide these services, they must also show proof of proper insurance. Prior to signing any contract, obtain proof of insurance and proper licensing by your state’s governing body. The cannabis industry has been targeted by disingenuous guard companies that provide “cheaper” guard services, because they don’t have the overhead costs of current insurances and other costs that are required of licensed operators.

Following these simple steps can help you protect your business while also keeping your business safe.

Chris Eggers was a law enforcement officer for more than 12 years in Oakland and San Francisco. He received extensive training from Police Officers Standard and Training regarding cannabis consumption, regulation and compliance. He consults with cannabis operators daily on their security, facility design, policies and procedures