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Security Master Planning in the Cannabis Industry

Part 1 of 4

In order to legally operate a cannabis business, whether medical or recreational, a license or permit to operate must be obtained.  Every state has its own regulations and application process in place.  They all require security measures to provide for the safety and security of the operation, its associates, and the neighborhood within which it operates. Most states call this a “Security Plan” and require its details be submitted with the application to operate, but what exactly is a “Security Plan?”

I have worked with many in the industry who think that a Security Plan is a floor plan drawing with security devices added (cameras, electronic access control, alarm, door intercoms, etc.) They have their security integrator provide this as a design-build, selling and installing the equipment as well.

Unfortunately, this is only a part of a Security Plan and leaves the organization short.  A Security Plan includes a Security Management Plan, Security Operations Plan, and a Security Technology Plan.  All three must be included in a complete Security Plan.

Security Master Planning is a process of gathering, developing, and assembling all aspects of the security program into the three parts of a complete security plan.  Simple enough, anyone can do it, right?  Wrong!  Although many organizations may have the ability to produce a security plan, it is usually best to work with a security consultant experienced in all aspects necessary for the development of the Security Plan.

Many security integrators (defined as: security equipment companies, alarm companies, locksmiths, basically anyone selling and installing security equipment) hold themselves out as security consultants.  Then, if they work within the cannabis industry and install a system in a cannabis facility, they hold themselves out as experienced cannabis security consultants.  They traditionally do not hold any experience, knowledge, or certifications demonstrating they are qualified as a security consultant, let alone qualified to produce any part of the Security Plan other than possibly the Security Technology Plan. Integrators usually don’t have any experience or knowledge of the actual operations, flows, equipment, culture, and needs within a cannabis organization’s site so their plans require changes due to regulator inspections, or even due to equipment placement rendering the security equipment’s placement useless.  Their plans usually are based upon specific requirements of the law such as controlled access, minimum coverage, camera type and resolution, and video archive retention.  Once installed, an integrator can tell you how to operate the systems, but they can’t show you how to use them as part of the security program.

Security systems such as cameras, electronic access control, and alarms are tools.  Tools are not solutions; they are tools.  A strong security program based upon experience, best practices, and standards must be developed and implemented. A Security Management Plan, combined with the Security Technology Plan’s security systems as tools, and the Security Operations Plan with its Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and protocols, will lead to a security solution.

A Security Master Plan is what ultimately ensures compliance and is needed for a permit or license to operate.  Experiences within operations management should be taken into consideration in the development of information written into the Security Plan section of the application to operate.  Utilizing a strong security management program with state of the art security systems will help an organization be a beneficial addition to the community and its immediate neighbors.

We will discuss the Security Management Plan, Security Operations Plan, and Security Technology Plan separately in coming articles dedicated to each.

Stay tuned and stay safe, and always remember that it is everyone’s responsibility to become an active participant in the safety and security of themselves, and others.

Tim Sutton CPP, PSP, CHPA

Tim Sutton CPP, PSP, CHPA

Tim Sutton is a Senior Security Consultant and Cannabis Security Practice Leader at Guidepost Solutions. He has more than 30 years of security experience. His expertise includes operational security management, program development, loss prevention, physical security, risk assessments, and technical security systems design and implementation. He has worked with clients in diverse sectors including medicinal and adult-use cannabis, healthcare, retail, government, manufacturing, and multi-use properties. Tim is a Director on the ASIS International Professional Standards Board, and a member of the ASTM International  D37 Committee on Cannabis Standards.

Sutton has worked as director of security for Greenhouse Group and its Grassroots and Herbology banners, responsible for enterprise security risk management in all markets. Sutton has authored Master Security, Emergency Action and Fleet Safety Plans along with security training and operations manuals. He also conducted new hire background investigations and security advances at dispensaries.

Prior to Greenhouse, he worked as the director of security for Revolution Enterprises with similar security responsibilities.

Sutton has spoken at a number of cannabis industry events covering security subject matter. He first entered the cannabis industry as a security consultant when he authored security content for the extremely competitive Illinois permit application process winning two cultivation permits and three dispensary permits. After winning five IL permits, Mr. Sutton has provided security consulting services and authored consistently winning security plans and content for applications and operations in multiple states.

In addition to operational security director roles within the cannabis industry, Mr. Sutton has worked as a hospital security director, manufacturing facility security coordinator, and retail director of loss prevention and security. He also has held several positions within a security integrator operation including account executive, senior systems engineer, and licensee in charge and today provides security technology plans for multiple industries.

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