Dispensary security surveillance and other steps help keep your goods, property, and people safe
Despite marijuana now being legal for recreational use in 18 states and permitted for medicinal use in 37, it remains illegal at the federal level. As a result, legal dispensaries are in charge of selling products that could be illegal in neighboring jurisdictions — and thus stolen and sold on a black market. In addition, many licensed cannabis shops operate on a cash basis because of how federal laws impact their access to payment processors and banks.
These factors can create unique security risks for dispensary owners and their employees as they attempt to operate perfectly legal businesses.
If you’re an owner of one of these facilities, you may wonder, “Does my dispensary need video surveillance?” Here’s an answer to this question and information on what an upgraded security system can do.
Why thieves target dispensaries
Thieves will target dispensaries for a few reasons. First, the products available at a cannabis shop are still somewhat restricted, creating a secondary market for them. Criminals can sell the products they get away with to underage buyers or at a lower price than the dispensary charges.
In states where marijuana is only permitted for medicinal use, thieves can sell products to anyone without a medical marijuana card, allowing them to bypass the doctor’s appointment necessary to gain legal access to these substances.
In both situations, thieves can make considerable money reselling the items they steal because they have decent cash value, and there are always buyers looking for cannabis-related products.
There’s an increased risk of theft in states with legal marijuana that border states where it remains illegal. For example, marijuana is legal for recreational use in Illinois, but the state borders Wisconsin and Indiana, where that’s still illegal. The same goes for New Mexico, which borders Texas, and Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Montana, which surround Idaho, where cannabis is illegal.
Dispensaries in these states could become bigger targets as thieves sell stolen marijuana in neighboring states at a premium rate.
Dispensary financial services, cash, and the SAFE Banking Act
Marijuana isn’t the only thing thieves will take from dispensaries when they break in or rob a facility—they also search for cash. Many dispensaries have significant cash-on-hand because of the lack of legal clarity and protections these businesses have while trying to use banking and payment-processing services.
The gist is that a federal banking regulator could penalize a financial institution for providing services to a legal cannabis-related entity under current federal law. These penalties can include limiting or terminating a bank’s deposit insurance or making a firm subject to asset forfeiture for providing a business loan to a company in the marijuana industry.
Banking regulators could also order a financial institution to terminate the account of a dispensary without a valid reason and subject any money the dispensary deposits to anti-money laundering laws.
In short, banks still have limited protections in a hazy regulatory environment. Thus, many institutions rarely accept deposits from legitimate cannabis dispensaries because they risk federal penalties and the loss of their deposit insurance. At the same time, marijuana-related businesses are hesitant to use banks or accept electronic payments because the federal government could confiscate the money or force the closure of their accounts.
The lack of legal protection in the financial services industry means many dispensaries are cash-only, making them a prime target for thieves.
However, help could be on the way soon in the form of the SAFE Banking Act. This legislation has already passed the House and would make it illegal for a federal banking regulator to target legitimate cannabis-related industries unfairly. As a result, more dispensaries could use traditional financial services firms, limiting the amount of cash on the premises.
Ways to protect a dispensary
Developing ways to protect your dispensary is essential since there’s no guarantee that access to financial services is on the way, and marijuana will remain a valuable commodity and target for thieves regardless.
First, you should be clever about securing cash on-site and offer alternative payment options. For example, some dispensaries have cashless ATMs, which allow the buyer to use a bank card at the ATM and receive a voucher instead of cash. This system reduces the need for money in the store.
Alternatively, dispensaries can invest in smart safes, which offer automatic bill counting, counterfeit detection, PIN-secured log-ins, and touchscreens. These safes are nearly impenetrable and provide real-time updates of the cash on hand. It’s also wise to move dollars off-site every day or two, hiring security guards to transport it if necessary. Keeping no more than two days of daily cash sales on premises at any given time is recommended.
Creating physical barriers in the store can make a dispensary a more challenging target for criminals and offer protection to your staff. Walls and fences around the back of the building make it difficult to break in, while a plexiglass shield between staff and customers can reduce robberies.
Finally, focusing on technology in the form of video surveillance can work wonders for protecting a dispensary. Strategically-placed cameras ensure no one enters the property undetected, and you can invest in a remote monitoring service to offer real-time protection of the building after hours. The mere presence of actively monitored cameras deters many thieves from making an attempt.
Dispensary video surveillance is perhaps the best investment you can make in your business’s long-term safety. It acts as a strong deterrent and creates evidence if criminals ever victimize you.
Investing in a video surveillance system
Developing a total security solution for your dispensary is highly advisable because cannabis is and will remain a valuable commodity, creating opportunities for thieves. Installing high-quality surveillance cameras offers a layer of protection that helps keep your staff and inventory safe.
Mobile Video Guard offers video surveillance for a variety of businesses all over the country, including cannabis dispensaries. We can develop a solution that meets your company’s unique needs, adding peace of mind as you grow. Contact Mobile Video Guard to get a quote.