Guest Blog Post By: David Fettner | Grow America Builders
A cannabis dispensary has many unique qualities that differentiate it from a typical retail store. A dispensary building incorporates the features of a retailer, a bank, and a pharmacy. But the most important aspect is security. Between the cash transactions and cannabis product on site, a dispensary has always been a target for criminals. In this current environment, where rioting and looting is becoming more prevalent, that target has increased ten-fold.
New Security Challenges
All dispensaries have full surveillance coverage, both inside and out, as well as top of the line security systems. Unfortunately cameras aren’t always enough; a mob of looters in masks don’t care if their image gets caught on tape. Tensions are high and penalties are low. Our main priority has shifted towards protecting our client’s business, their employees, and their product.
Grow America Builders have built dispensaries all over the country, and recently one of our dispensaries was in the middle of televised riots. A mob of looters attempted to get in twice in the same night. We can proudly say, the damage was minimal and the criminals didn’t get anything except frustration and some bloody hands. But it was a wake-up call that these types of incidents can occur more and more frequently, so we created an updated strategy for security the dispensaries that we build.
Security Above & Beyond
The following are some security reinforcements recommended when building or renovating a cannabis facility:
Workroom Reinforcements: Bulletproof
The workroom is one of the most important parts of a dispensary. It’s typically adjacent to the vault, and during work hours the dispensary workroom is where the product is put together for orders and passed through to the point of sale area. There are many times throughout the day where the workroom could be housing significant amounts of cannabis.
At Grow America Builders, we came up with a solution years ago that ensures protection between the point of sale area and workroom. We recommend building cannabis workrooms with heavy gauge steel and barrier mesh between the drywall. This is an acceptable method for some vaults, and provides excellent security for a cannabis workroom.
Additionally, many workrooms have pass-through windows where employees hand over the cannabis orders to the salespeople. Think of a bank teller window. We couldn’t find the right sized bank teller window, so we came up with another solution. We sourced a 2’ by 3’ commercial storefront window, glazed with over 1” thick bulletproof glass.
Between the reinforced walls and bulletproof windows, we more or less created a safe room for the employees who work in the cannabis workroom. In the event looters ever get into the store, they aren’t getting into the workroom.
Storefront Window Film: Bombproof
Most storefront windows are typical center glazed with ¼” tempered glass. However, in order to achieve full peace of mind, we started applying a reinforced security film over the dispensaries’s exterior windows and glass doors.
1. First of all, this guarantees that no looters can physically break the through the window.
2. Secondly, if they come armed with explosives, they’ll be in for a rude awakening because the film is applied with an impact protection adhesive anchoring system, which is rated to be bomb proof.
This film can be applied over almost any typical storefront window and is sourced from some of the most reputable vendors in the industry.
Vault Door: Bullet Proof! Bomb Proof! Mob Proof!
The vault is always the first item that we scrutinize when provided with a set of plans to build a new dispensary. The vault can be built many ways;
- Masonry construction
- Heavy gauge metal studs with wire mesh
- Prefabricated panels from a security company
All three ways provide satisfactory security, but we always have to be careful because different states have different vault construction parameters. Still, all three methods provide optimal protection. The vault door is the one wild card because not all vault doors are built alike.
At Grow America Builders, we highly recommend using a Class 5 V vault door that has guaranteed protection of 20 man-hours of surreptitious entry and radiological break-in techniques. This includes withstanding a prolonged ‘mob attack’.
This door can withstand brutal attacks from a mob for a prolonged period of time, something that we never considered when we started building dispensaries, but in 2020, this has become a necessity.
Additionally, if we have a client who is highly concerned about security, we can upgrade the vault door one step further to provide up to 60 minutes of penetration delay against battering attacks, intense and concentrated hand tool attacks, as well as being able to withstand multiple shots of both 7.62 mm and 5.56 mm ballistic attacks.
There are many other tweaks and adjustments that we now do to reinforce a dispensary during construction. When looters attacked one of our recently completed dispensaries, it gave us a real world glimpse as to how our security was able to stand up to the criminal element. We were able to identify potential weak points and make easy adjustments.
For example, we were able to identify that the looters tried to remove door hinge pins in an attempt to remove doors to enter the workroom. They never got in, but it showed us a potential weak point.
Now, we only install pin-less hinges, whether specified on the architectural drawings or not. There were many more ideas we garnered throughout those weeks, many of which we now implement as standard construction means and methods in the construction of a dispensary.
When a dispensary gets looted and vandalized, it does more than physical damage, especially when the dispensary is medicinal. There are patients who depend on their daily cannabis. We’ve seen first hand the panic in the eyes of an epilepsy patient who came to the dispensary looking for his usual order but couldn’t get it because of looting the prior night. This is one of the real life, unfortunate impacts of looting a cannabis dispensary. We will continue to secure the dispensaries we build, not only for the safety of the client and employees, but also to thwart the attempts of the criminals targeting cannabis facilities.
David Fettner is a managing partner of Grow America Builders, a national design-build construction company focused solely on the cannabis industry. Along with his partner, Mike Kaulentis, Grow America brings over twenty years of versatile construction experience, offering customers an end to end experience from concept through architecture, design and turnkey construction.