Cannabis Dispensary Security Hiring Best Practices, Part 1: Hire On Experience, Not Price

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Through this 4-part series, “Cannabis Dispensary Security Hiring Best Practices”, we’re going to cover a myriad of issues you need to consider for your dispensary (or, grow operation). It should come as no surprise that security should be of paramount concern to medical marijuana dispensary owners. Storerooms, with an abundance of high-value cannabis and cash registers brimming with cash, are vulnerable to robberies, which sometimes turn violent.

Hiring the right security company is not a task you should take lightly. Find and hire a professional security company experienced in the cannabis industry to protect not only your employees, patients and your investment, but to legitimize the perception of your dispensary or grow operation in the eyes of the public and law enforcement.

What exactly do you risk by hiring the wrong security company?

  • Higher chances of getting robbed: With the chances of a dispensary getting robbed eclipsing that of even banks or liquor stores, getting robbed could cost not only a significant amount of money — $250,000 when taking into account theft, property damage, legal fees and downtime — but lives as well.
  • Attracting the attention of the Feds: Neglecting proper security protocol, including having a robust security plan in place that includes a reputable and experienced security firm significantly increases chances of attracting the attention of federal law enforcement.
  • Temporary closure or loss of operating license: One of the leading reasons regulators or law enforcement shut down dispensaries or grow facilities is due to lousy records and inadequate security measures.
  • Your operation: Avis Bulbulyan, founder and CEO of Bulbulyan Consulting Group spent years in the legal, financial and insurance industries dealing with investigations, loss prevention and identity theft. Bulbulyan cautions, “Hiring the wrong security company could spell disaster for your business. You’re putting your entire operation at risk.”

Having worked in and advised numerous companies in the private security industry, when it comes to experience and professionalism, I’ve seen firsthand the delta that exists between the vast majority of security companies, and the very few, that I’d consider to be genuinely “high-integrity” respectable firms. It’s sad to say, but there aren’t many security firms I’d feel comfortable advising a dispensary or grow facility to hire. Heck, I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending many security firms to provide security for a high-school prom!

Recently, I sat down with Joel Logan, the COO of Las Vegas-based security firm, Reliance Security. Reliance Security has been in business for over two decades protecting “A-List” celebrities, providing security to Hollywood film shoots, conducting investigations on high-profile, high net-worth individuals, and providing security to legal cannabis dispensaries and grow facilities in Nevada, Colorado and California.

Joel is a nationally recognized security and compliance expert in the legal cannabis industry. It helps that Joel also just happens to be a former narcotics officer, and that Joel with his business partner, Stephen Rybar, together have decades of military and law enforcement experience, with extensive expertise in threat assessment and counter-measures.

During our three hour conversation overlooking the “beautiful” Las Vegas Strip, Joel shared his wealth of knowledge on issues many — if not most — owners of dispensaries and grow operations should consider when it comes to security and what measures they should have in place.

When designating a security company, ignore these best practices at your peril.

After our conversation, I felt I could fill a book with everything that I learned from Joel. So for the sake of brevity, in this article, I’ve identified some of the key highlights of our conversation focused primarily on best practices when it comes to hiring a security company to protect your facility.

Hire on experience, not cost.

As the adage goes, “you get what you pay for”, and when it comes to security, this statement couldn’t ring more true. It’s no secret that security companies operate on narrow margins, and more often than not, don’t pay their guards much more than minimum wage. While this may be okay if the guards are simply doing routine security patrols around an apartment building in a low crime area — although even then, I’d err on the side of safety not cost — when it comes to legal cannabis dispensaries or grow facilities, the risks of hiring the wrong security company are simply too great.

“Don’t hire a security company simply because they’re the ‘low price leader’. Seek out a company based on their experience, reputation, knowledge and adherence to best practices and compliance issues. And, without a doubt, avoid companies that compete on price only,” Joel says. “They hire inexperienced guards who lack the knowledge and experience to protect your investment. In this industry, the risks and consequences of hiring the wrong company are simply too great!”

Avis Bulbulyan couldn’t agree more: “Absolutely! The cost factor, when it’s all said and done, is insignificant compared to what you’re putting at risk. It’s like the saying ‘tripping over a dollar to pick up a dime’. You’re protecting millions, why would you even consider saving an extra 10-20k a year on a company that’s not capable of protecting millions?”

Joel makes the point that given the potential consequences of not hiring the right security company — theft, loss of license, legal issues, loss of income — when it comes to security, you don’t have the luxury of erring when it comes to hiring security:  “Do you want to hire a security company who hires young, inexperienced security guards who finished the minimal guard training requirements, often just an 8 – 16 hour security guard crash course, and just got their guard card, only to get paid $7 or $8 per hour? And, they have little — if, any — real-world experience.”

Logan continues, “Or, would it make a heck of a lot more sense to hire a security firm who are not only versed in medical marijuana security and compliance issues, but employ guards with extensive law enforcement and/or military experience?”

The value of hiring a security firm that employs former military and law enforcement should not be discounted. Beyond the simple fact that security companies who provide opportunities to veterans are honoring the men and women who served our country, the practical reasons are significant:

Veterans received comprehensive training to deal with terrorism and many have battle-tested skills in highly tense, stressful, life-threatening situations. Unlike most individuals who lack military (or law enforcement) training, they generally possess extensive experience in security, threat assessment, they may have been shot at, and most important, in the event of a high-stress situation, it’s unlikely they’re going “freeze up” or forget how to address the situation calmly and professionally.

Logan says, “Bottom line: imagine if the unthinkable happens. If you’ve got inexperienced or under-trained security guards protecting your facilities, what are the chances he or she will be able to remain calm and manage the situation?

Are you involved in the Cannabis Industry — in a business context or as a patient/consumer? If so, do you have a story idea or want to be interviewed for a future column? Email Jeremy Kossen at jeremy@mogulymedia.com and follow him on Twitter @jeremykossen.

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