The topic of legalizing cannabis in the United States has risen to the forefront in recent years as more and more states open dispensaries for customers to purchase marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes.
To date, nearly 20 states have opened cannabis dispensaries, and although marijuana is illegal under U.S. federal law, facilities that sell cannabis are regulated under state and local mandates. As the number of cannabis dispensaries in the U.S. continues to increase, the demand to secure these facilities continues to grow, especially when all customer transactions are cash only.
Suppliers and systems integrators must make sure that cannabis dispensaries have tight security measures in place, specifically at entry/exit points and areas where cash is handled.
“Cannabis facilities contain both large cash deposits and high-value product that must be protected,” said Bryan Sanderford, national sales manager, Dortronics Systems, Inc. “Cannabis security systems use not only card access to limit entry to authorized personnel, but also frequently include door interlock systems. The mantrap entrances deter forced entry by presenting a double barrier to people trying to overwhelm the security system. While cannabis retail stores are not allowed in every state, the early installations have utilized security controls similar to that of high-end jewelry stores.”
Sanderford pointed out that mandates on the federal, state and local levels must be adhered to when installing door control technology in cannabis dispensaries.
“As long as federal laws prevent cannabis retailer locations from using the banking system, large amounts of cash stored on site will require extra security,” he explained. “In addition, local building codes may limit what types of locking hardware might be installed on access points used by the public.”
Controlling access points is key
Keeping cannabis facilities safe and secure starts with using door control technology as the first line of defense, Sanderford noted.
“A two-door vestibule would be recommended for customer entry, with the exterior door normally unlocked and the interior door locked and controlled remotely by store personnel,” he explained. “These doors should be interlocked to allow only one door to be open at a time with CCTV [closed-circuit television] cameras recording all activity. These doors should allow free egress from the public sales area.”
Regarding employee entry/exit areas, Sanderford recommended going through a non-public access point. “This doorway may also have interlocking door control with both entry and exit requiring card access,” he said. “Or there may be a delayed egress application which by code allows a delay of the unauthorized or emergency egress for up to 30 seconds. This allows employees an opportunity to respond. CCTV cameras should also be incorporated to provide a history of activity.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, facial recognition of masked employees and customers entering cannabis dispensaries is “challenging,” Sanderford said, noting that some advances using artificial intelligence (AI) have tried to address the situation. “As the pandemic is arrested, masks will be less of a problem,” he added.
Door control technology has proven to be an effective and essential tool in securing cannabis facilities, according to Sanderford. “Although installations have been effective and are necessary, they add another layer of security which can be restrictive at times depending on volume and flow-through of customers,” he said.
Video is king for systems integrators
On the systems integrator side, Matthew Ladd, president, The Protection Bureau, pointed out to Security Systems News that in addition to the locks and door technology in high-security locations such as cannabis dispensaries, systems integrators play an important role in these locations when it comes to video.
“There are tremendously more detailed requirements for their security systems,” he explained. “The area of coverage is different, so where you might be able to, in a normal retail store, put a camera in the front or in the aisle, in the cannabis world, you need as close to 100 percent coverage as possible,” he said. “How do you get those cameras there? A lot of times they’re not just up on the wall anymore or on the ceiling. They’re actually down lower. You have to watch every aspect of the business.”
Another essential role that integrators play to secure cannabis facilities is in the area of video storage.
“There are requirements in the cannabis market for storage of video,” he noted. “They’re not only going to increase camera count and camera quality, but also store video for large amounts of time, so you have to get cloud-based solutions or large servers. That is another big aspect in the cannabis world – how do you get all that video stored?”
Access control for cannabis facilities involves the more standard card readers and some biometrics, especially in some of the more secure areas, Ladd said. “If you have a cannabis plant or a cannabis store, there are still the requirements to track where people are going, probably no different than a precious metals location or a financial institution” he noted. “You still need to know where people are, where they’re going.”
Security solutions for employee entry/exit points in cannabis dispensaries include video monitoring and card access control, as well as facial recognition technology.
“There may some locations in these facilities where two employees may have to go into the area where the cannabis is stored, not much different from anything in the high-end security world,” Ladd said.
For integrators, video storage is probably the most important requirement for cannabis locations. “You can’t just have one camera to watch the whole room,” Ladd noted. “You might put one camera in for your standard security levels, where you might put in six cameras for a cannabis facility.”