Cannabis Security with Cameras and Alarm Systems

How a well-maintained camera and alarm system ensures a safe product

In part one we discussed the unique challenges faced by growers and entrepreneurs within the cannabis industry: Transacting in cash, having conflicting federal, state and local laws, and working with a highly desirable product that has incredibly high street value. We also discussed how GPS trackers can be used to monitor the transfer of both cash and assets; in this article, we'll look at how video, alarm, and access control systems can protect every aspect of an operation.

Camera Systems Meet Compliance While Maintaining a Watchful Eye

In states that have legalized cannabis for medical and/or recreational use, the security compliance standards set for cameras are extremely specific. Compliance guidelines generally state that cameras need to be IP connected, maintain a certain minimum video resolution (anywhere between 640 x 470 and 1280 x 720 pixels), have alerts that are triggered if the camera loses connectivity for an extended period of time, and cover all entrances and exits inside and out, among other standards.

Of course, even if compliance standards weren't a legal requirement, implementing a complete video surveillance system is essential in ensuring security of both cannabis growing and retail operations. Professional-grade IP camera systems are better and more accessible than they've ever been, with leading brands like ACTi, Sony, Vivotek , and more offering camera types that fit every setting and environmental conditions. From rugged, outdoor-ready dome cameras with weather and vandal-proof housings, to fisheye lenses that can cover the entirety of a large growing room, there is a camera style built to monitor an operation inside and out. Protect loading docks, parking lots, point-of-sale machines, stockrooms and more. Because these internet-connected systems can all be set up on one unified network, a security manager can monitor multiple locations from grow to sales floor from one place.

Modern security camera systems can also be installed without the need of a professional; which not only cuts down the cost of implementing the system, but also leaves the operation less vulnerable. The fewer people that know about a cannabis business' security measures, the less chance there is of a criminal exploiting any weakness in that system.

Still, if there is a surveillance camera system, there are bound to be blind spots that can be exploited by employees and burglars. While it's important to have a fully visible system of cameras not only for monitoring, but also as a deterrent, supplementing a system with covert recording devices can catch thieves in the act when they think they're safe.

There are a number of covert camera options available that can be integrated into any environment without tipping off compromised employees or criminals. From smoke detector cameras that take a top view of an area, to AC adapter cameras that will go unnoticed in any room, there are unique housing types to fit any setting. Or, a security manager can choose a simple black box hidden camera, like the Camscura , which can be hidden in hard-to-reach areas like air vents, or within common objects like tissue boxes for DIY covert recording. The Camscura WiFi can even be integrated into a network of cameras, offering remote view covert video alongside the traditional surveillance camera feeds.

Alarm Systems & Access Control Protect Vulnerable Entry Points

Besides camera systems, the other consistent compliance requirement for cannabis operations is an access control and alarm system ; typically one that's professionally monitored, 24/7. And, like camera systems, while an access control and alarm system meets a compliance standard, it is also an essential component in cannabis business security.

Access control solutions enable a security manager to set specific requirements on who can enter both a grow operation and retail space based on a number of factors, including clearance level and shift time. By using an electronic lock system, access to certain areas of an operation can be restricted to managers, or can expire during specific times of day. By assigning access using unique codes or fingerprints for employees, access can be granted on a case-by-case basis, which helps curb employee theft.

Modern alarm systems also present a unique opportunity through how customizable and granular they can be. Individual sensors can be used to monitor everything from doors and windows to individual motion sensors and tilt sensors for protecting specific rooms and safes. Because alarm systems can be constantly added to using sensors, they are scalable as your business grows. And, much like video camera systems, alarm systems can be installed without enlisting the help of professionals, saving money and avoiding the risk of compromised security.

Alarm systems can also be used to monitor environmental conditions which can help ensure plant safety. More obvious sensors like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors can be integrated within a system; but additionally, sensors that monitor temperature and the presence of water, which can trigger the system in the case of a flood or broken heating system. And, as many state laws require, alarm systems can include panic buttons that act as an easy trigger in case of a robbery.

Like video monitoring systems, alarm systems can be remotely monitored from any computer or smartphone, so even if a security manager is moving from site to site he can always have a finger on the pulse of the operation.

Going Beyond Compliance

Implementing and managing a robust security and surveillance system may seem inherent in meeting the criteria of a state's compliance standards for operating a cannabis business. According to experts, however, going above and beyond what you think you may need is the only surefire way to protect this highly targeted and vulnerable business.

“What the state needs to get your doors open is probably not what you want in real life in the all-cash cannabis business,” says Noah Stokes, founder and CEO of CannaGuard Security in Oregon.

As long as there are disparities between local, state and federal laws, the cannabis industry will continue to have a target on its back from both criminals and authorities alike. Dealing in cash and a product that's easy to move with a high street value makes the cannabis industry one of the most unique in the United States. But, as industry trends have indicated, the risk that comes from cannabis is worth the reward. Taking the proper security precautions help minimize that risk.

Published May 18th, 2021