EXCLUSIVE: A time to scale for future growth


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Scott Thomas, National Director of Sales, Signature Brands, Genetec explores how to protect cannabis businesses in a rapidly growing industry.

The cannabis industry is witnessing double-digit growth globally. In the US, it is among the nation’s top five fastest growing industries, with revenues projected to hit $32bn in 2022.

Demand for cannabis products has policymakers revising and expanding regulations that dictate how products are cultivated, produced, transported, sold and protected; cannabis operators are working hard to remain compliant.

Cannabis businesses operate in a cash-intensive environment, making them a particularly attractive target for criminals. A recent spike in violent robberies at cannabis retail outlets across the US put the industry on edge and is causing business owners to prioritise and revamp security to safeguard stores and employees.

Protecting a cannabis business and remaining compliant means securing cultivation and retail facilities, overseeing the production process, providing audit reports and monitoring operations. Businesses are finding that unifying their physical security systems can do more than protect people and assets.

A unified security platform also fulfils requirements for security and operational procedures, reports and video evidence for compliance audits.

Physical security solutions from seed to sale

Cannabis growing facilities and dispensaries need scalable, reliable security. Protecting employees, customers, products and currency are the primary objectives.

In addition to compliance, hardening a cash-intensive business means intrusion detection, panic alarms and access control must be part of security system design. Operators also need to consider long term expansion goals, so system design should be scalable for additional stores and cultivation locations. As regulations evolve and companies grow, an initial investment in unified, open architecture security solutions will save reinvestment in the long term.

Specific security design components that cannabis providers need to comply with include video surveillance inside and outside cultivation facilities. Video is also a mandated requirement in processing, production and packaging areas as well as stockrooms and throughout the dispensary, including at the point of sale (POS).

Access control is required throughout the enterprise, with only specific individuals having authorization to certain restricted areas. State and city regulators may require audit logs of these areas, as well as video verification that only authorized employees are using their assigned credentials. Failure to meet requirements can result in entire harvests being destroyed, substantial fines and suspension of operating licenses.

Intrusion detection systems are also a staple in cannabis security design. Local regulation may require active monitoring of perimeter fencing around the growing facility, the cultivation center itself as well as any production, processing and storage facilities if housed in separate physical locations. Dispensaries require a full intrusion system including duress alarms to monitor potential forced entry, burglary and armed robbery.

Most operators unify both access control and intrusion systems with video surveillance. In some areas, this is mandated. In all cases, it is a best practice that verifies policies and procedures, augments audits, expedites investigations and mitigates risk. Video surveillance can also unify with POS transactions, ID verification and inventory management systems in dispensaries. These capabilities help protect the operators’ product, transactional cash and validate regulated sales quantity and age check compliance.

A unified security system can add value from an operational standpoint as well. Notifications from facility management systems like temperature control, water flow and energy consumption in cultivation can alert operators of potential issues that may require immediate response. 

Video coverage to meet regulations

In system design, camera placement that maximizes viewing areas is recommended. Regulations in many states dictate the specific camera resolution and frame rates in addition to video retention requirements. Retention requirements vary by jurisdiction and range from 30 days to 24 months. Options for both on-premises and cloud video retention can minimize upfront storage deployment cost.

Some jurisdictions mandate 24-hour continuous camera coverage with no video loss. Real time camera health status and offline notifications should be an essential consideration for the unified security platform.

In addition to recording video, a unified system can also provide early detection and notification of a potential intrusion. Cameras can send a real time alert to key personnel if someone approaches the property during off hours.

When evaluating security solution providers, cannabis operators should ask about the firm’s experience and understanding of local cannabis regulatory requirements. System components need to meet these requirements, so it’s important to weigh the security provider’s background in the decision.

Unified systems and open architecture

Video management, access control, intrusion detection and other functions are far more efficient in a unified platform. For multi-site operations, having a single, unified view of the entire enterprise increases efficiency and ensures compliance audits, reports and evidence can easily be produced.

Open architecture security platforms like Genetec™ Security Center, support different camera manufacturers, access control, intrusion panels, facility management and more. Therefore, hardware can often be reused and added as the enterprise expands.  

Strengthen trust by focusing on privacy

Keeping customer and financial data secure maintains trust in the operator’s brand as well as compliance with regulatory requirements. Many states have regulations around data as concerns over privacy increase. It’s important to choose a unified security platform with a strong commitment to cybersecurity and the resources to identify, maintain and support businesses as the threat landscape evolves.

A unified security platform must also keep data safe from employees who don’t have authorized access and mitigate exposure to outside cyber-risks like camera hacking, password theft, and ransomware.

Protecting people, products and data

The legalization of cannabis for medicinal and recreational use has created new opportunities – and new challenges. Cannabis operators are competing in a rapidly growing industry and regulations are constantly evolving. The complicated nature of these regulations can make securing new and expanding businesses difficult.

Criminals are also continually evolving their tactics to take advantage of this unique cash-intensive business. To succeed, cannabis businesses can invest in an open architecture, unified security platform. This will allow them to scale for future growth, maximize operational efficiency, meet compliance regulations and protect people, products and data.

For more information, visit: www.genetec.com

This article was originally published in the November edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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