In order to meet the requirements of state and local entities and to protect their investments, commercial cannabis growers must implement a security system. Even hobby growers, although not required, will get added protection by having some sort of security system in place. The fact of the matter is cannabis is a valuable commodity and thieves are always on the lookout for an easy way to get their hands on a valuable commodity. For hobby growers, a security system could be little more than a few cameras and an audible alarm. For commercial growers, depending on the state and local requirements, a security system could mean high tech monitoring, storing months of video surveillance footage, armed guards, concrete barriers and installed safes or vaults. It is important to choose a security system that will not only meet state and local requirements, but will also provide the highest value for the grower’s investment.
To meet the cannabis regulations established by state and local officials, many commercial growers hire professional security companies to set up and maintain their security systems. Professional security systems may include cameras, alarms, motion sensors, off-site monitoring, armed guards, or any combination of these items. When searching for a security company, growers should look for a company that has experience in the cannabis industry and, most importantly, experience with state and local requirements. Security companies with this experience and knowledge will be able to provide a system that meets legal requirements and can be quickly expanded. The security requirements for cannabis gardens change regularly, so having a security company that is aware of and can adapt to these changes in a timely manner is important to keeping a grow operation running without interruption. In fact, it is always a good idea to have a security system that is easy to expand if/when either the state and local regulations change or the facility itself is expanded. In most cases, buying high quality equipment that is compatible with a variety of software and hardware options is the best long-term solution for a grow facility. Otherwise, the equipment might need to be replaced over and over as regulations change or when the facility expands.
The cameras are arguably the most important aspect of cannabis garden security. Depending on the state and local requirements for coverage of the facility, a grower may need full monitoring of all areas of the indoor facility and the outdoor perimeter. This is when a security company with experience in the cannabis industry is helpful. They will understand how to place the cameras so they will not become obstructed by the plants as they grow. Smart placement to maximize the viewing area of the camera also reduces the total number of cameras needed. In other words, it’s not always the total number of cameras in the security system that is important, but how they are set up for maximum coverage. One good rule of thumb is to keep as many cameras visible as possible.
A security system that is very obvious will do a better job of deterring potential prowlers than a hidden camera-type system. How a grow facility monitors its video surveillance will largely depend on state and local requirements. Some state entities require 24 hour camera coverage. Others may require the video surveillance to be stored for a certain amount of time. Again, a security company with experience in the cannabis industry will best understand these legalities.
The ultimate goal of a security system isn’t to document a crime as it occurs, but, rather, to prevent a crime from ever happening. Early detection is critical for prevention. Exterior cameras at a grow facility should be able to send real-time alerts to several key people, including an off-site video monitoring or security company. Criminals tend to visit a building beforehand to check out the facility’s security system. If someone confronts them or questions their presence, chances are good that they will never return.
Another important security feature, especially for large-scale grow facilities, is a security fence with bollards. A strong fence with concrete or steel bollards is the best defense against a criminal who would use a vehicle to break into a facility for a quick heist. In most cases, having an external security system similar to that of a bank would be the best option. This could mean cameras, security guards or guard dogs, concrete or steel bollards, and high decibel alarms with strobe lights. Again, the more obvious and apparent the security system, the better the chance it will deter a would-be thief.
Although the vast majority of the security system is aimed at protecting the growing facility, a high priority should be placed on protecting the place where the cannabis is stored. After all, an intelligent thief would much rather steal dried or processed cannabis products than a bunch of plants in mid-growth. An extremely heavy safe or vault or one that is secured to the floor makes it extra difficult for thieves. Very few robbers are going to hang around trying to open or move a vault when alarms are blaring and lights are flashing. Protecting the plants in a grow facility is a concern, but protecting the dried or processed product is of the utmost importance.
Unfortunately, much of the theft that occurs in the cannabis industry is carried out by someone working as an employee or by a vendor with an established relationship with the facility. A disgruntled employee can be a grow facility owner’s worst nightmare. The temptation to steal is very real in any cash-based business. The presence of a security system may also be used to deter employee theft. Individual security codes, along with close monitoring of inventory, will create an environment where the owner/manager can identify losses and also who is responsible for those losses. Regular cash counts throughout the day let employees know that the money is being closely monitored and tracked. Designating certain employees to handle the cash, along with set policies for securing cash after transactions, will minimize the risk of employee theft. Employees with higher security clearance should always set the standard by exactly and consistently following set protocol.
Hobby growers generally will not hire a security company or be subject to the stringent regulations set up by state and local entities. However, they may still want to add a little extra protection for their grow rooms. There are many personal security products available for home use. Multiple-camera security systems are quite affordable and can easily be linked to an internet server so they can be monitored from virtually anywhere. A camera system is great at identifying the thief and can even be used as evidence if the police get involved. However, camera systems don’t necessarily stop the damage before it is done. As with commercial facilities, deterring or eliminating the threat of theft before it happens is what a security system should do. For a hobby grower, keeping his or her grow facility private or a secret should be a top priority. Sometimes hobbyists get excited and want to talk about their gardens with anyone who will listen. The plain truth is, no one can steal what they don’t know is there. In other words, if a grower keeps his or her cannabis garden a secret, there will be little or no chance of theft.
For many commercial growers, installing a security system is necessary to comply with the requirements set up by state or local officials. In addition to satisfying the law, a well-placed, visible security system will achieve what it is actually intended to do: prevent a crime before it occurs. Although some commercial cannabis growers complain that the requirements for security can be too strict, others view it as a way to further legitimize the cannabis growing industry. A working security system will reduce or eliminate the criminal aspect associated with cannabis. Just as there was an adjustment period at the end of alcohol prohibition, we are currently experiencing an adjustment period for cannabis legalization. Commercial growers who want to lead the pack within the cannabis industry must not only meet, but exceed, the requirements for security. Hobbyists and home growers, though not required, can reap some of the benefits a high quality security system has to offer. All in all, garden security is an all-encompassing factor for a commercial grow facility. In many cases, the biggest threat comes from the facility’s own employees. To best protect a commercial growing facility, a security system should include cameras, fencing, possibly armed guards, and also an effective inventory and cash monitoring system.
For over 100 years Socal Safe has set the standard for strength, quality and customer care in the security industry. Since 1915 our company has strived to deliver premium service with 100% customer satisfaction. Our longevity is testimony to our commitment to protect your assets and your loved ones with our security products. We have also provided our customers with expert advice and product offerings to automate all of their cash handling functions and provide them with the greatest Return-On-Investment opportunities. We work closely with our customers to help them determine which products they need to meet their security requirements and which automation products are best suited to their unique operations. For more information visit Socalsafe.com.
Eric Hopper is a Professional Marijuana Grower Senior Editor.