By Daniel Farrell – Silver Star Protection Group – MoCann Platinum Member
Transitioning from the medical cannabis market to legalized adult-use sales is exciting - and challenging. Regulations become more complex and, with additional cash and inventory onsite to serve a larger consumer base, adult-use dispensaries become a more desirable target for criminals.
There is no substitute for experience when navigating this shift, according to Ed Farrell, Managing Partner of Chicago-based security firm Silver Star Protection Group and retired U.S. Marshal. “Implementing best security practices and avoiding common challenges encountered in other states will mitigate risk, reduce the likelihood of costly oversights and, above all, help ensure the safety of customers and employees,” says Farrell, pointing to the following examples.
- People! Get Ready. It is critical to prepare for significant turnout in the initial days, weeks and months of opening for adult-use sales. This applies to proper staffing, execution of new protocols and customer flow management. Preparation is key to optimize the customer experience and help prevent unruly behavior, often associated with long wait times. “Executing an effective customer queuing strategy will enable orderly line up and the ability to safely and efficiently move customers through the facility. Understanding and properly enforcing occupancy rates will help create a safe, compliant and welcoming environment for customers and employees alike,” says Farrell, who has overseen the design and integration of security systems in more than 100 dispensaries in 4 states since 2014.
- Prioritize Security Regulation Knowledge. Dispensaries must understand regulatory changes and establish new operating procedures before opening their doors to the adult-use market. For example, purchaser screening requirements for adult-use and medical use are quite different. “Medical users show their medical card, a one-step screening process. For adult-use purchasers, there is much more to consider. ID scanners should be used to verify age of the purchaser. Dispensaries need to determine what forms of government identification they will accept and enforce the per-transaction limit,” Farrell said. This is just one example of how having a well-defined security directive in place will reduce risk and keep businesses operational, particularly while embarking on this transition.
- Enhance Security Infrastructure. The security protocols businesses choose will impact their safety as well as their financial viability. “Ensure you are a hardened facility, especially overnight when you are at increased risk. Fortifying security systems and standards in preparation for the move to adult-use is a must,” says Farrell. “Lean into comprehensive plans and security partners that know how to establish effective relationships with local law enforcement.” It is essential to consult with security experts that understand the cannabis industry to properly assess your facility and make meaningful recommendations to mitigate criminal activity.
- Keep Improving. It is important for businesses owners in the cannabis industry to remain forward-thinking about security protocols. “Based on our experience, criminals continue to evolve and become more sophisticated to exploit vulnerabilities,” Farrell said. “Protection needs to progress accordingly.” Implementing operational learnings, continuously improving procedures and embracing new technologies are key to maintaining a proactive security strategy. Continued training is imperative for employees and security to be aligned in emergency scenarios. “This is accomplished through education and practice. Security must be a collaborative event. As a business owner, you want a security partner that is integrated into your team,” added Farrell.
Preparing for Compliance Under Emergency Rules
On January 20, 2023, Missouri’s Division of Cannabis Regulation (DCR) finalized emergency rules which will regulate the cannabis industry in the State for most of the year. These emergency rules take effect February 3, 2023, and expire August 1, 2023, when final rules will go into effect.
Licensees must comply with the majority of new security requirements under the emergency rules by February 3, 2023. However, DCR has granted a series of waivers and variances for specific emergency rules that are not likely achievable on a short timeframe. Extension dates have been provided in instances where these waivers and variances apply. Business owners should immediately consult with a security professional to ensure these deadlines are met to avoid non-compliance, fines, notices of violation or other disciplinary actions.
Examples of new or increased security-related requirements include the following (this is not a comprehensive list):
- Increased camera count impacted by areas of required monitoring and number of angles required to be captured
- New video encryption, transfer, storage and remote access protocols
- New security film or shatter-proof glass requirements
- New ID barcode scanner requirement
- Increased exterior lighting requirements
- Motion detection as a method of continuous monitoring not permitted
- Secure storage requirements for marijuana when dispensaries closed for business
- New Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services DCR notification obligations
“Security affects everything you do in this business. Aligning with an accomplished partner that is entrenched in the day-to-day of the cannabis industry will help keep your business compliant, operational and protected,” says Farrell.
About Silver Star Protection Group
Silver Star Protection Group is a single-source security integrator serving the legal cannabis industry since 2014 and Missouri operators since 2019. We design and implement comprehensive security plans and systems that exceed compliance and pass regulatory examination, mitigating operational and safety risk for our customers.
Silver Star offers expertise in cannabis industry regulations and compliance, cannabis security application development, intelligent system integrations, physical security, secure transport, and more. We deliver the most advanced security protocols available to protect those in our care.