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Four Security Considerations for New Cannabis Businesses

Whether you’re starting a grower/processor facility or a dispensary, there are an overwhelming number of issues to be addressed; but we, here at Viridis Security Group, believe that the following Security concerns have to be at the top of your list.

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Congratulations, you’ve recently acquired a coveted legal cannabis business license and now, you have just months to accomplish your application plans and make your new cannabis business “operational.”
Whether you’re starting a grower/processor facility or a dispensary, there are an overwhelming number of issues to be addressed; but we, here at Viridis Security Group, believe that the following Security specific concerns have to be at the top of your list.
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We sat down with Viridis Security Group’s Director of Professional Services Chris Hinnershitz and Corporate Security Specialist Jim Minninger to discuss four commonly overlooked points for maintaining top-notch security while moving towards “operational” status. For more info on Viridis Security Group’s list of services, including physical location risk assessments and security integration please visit the VSG website. Viridis Security Group

1. Temporary Security Measures
Especially in states like Pennsylvania, where cannabis grower/processor and dispensary license winners (and proposed locations) are listed publicly, it is imperative that temporary security measures are adopted.
Any enterprising individual can check out the PA Dept. of Health’s website or search the deluge of recent news stories to see where new cannabis businesses will be located. Award winners can expect to see an influx of mail, an ongoing media presence and the occasional “lookey-loo,” as they build out.
Although stories of pre-operational vandalism or work disruption from “protesters” are few; new cannabis businesses owners should be aware of the public perception of legal cannabis in the proposed build location and be prepared for the influx of both positive and negative attention.
Even before the actual business security systems are installed there should be some form of temporary security in place to protect the location. Included in these build out security measures are camera systems, a secure perimeter fence, regular patrolling as well as lighting. Minninger suggests making sure the location is well lit from day one.

“You can’t protect what you can’t see,” he said.
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This added illumination not only makes the location a less desirable target for crime but also perpetuates the feeling of openness and professionalism to the surrounding community.

Have you established a strong, temporary security plan for the length of your build out? Why not let VSG do a preliminary risk assessment of the proposed site and see what specific security measures are right for your business?

2. Communication with local law enforcement
After 20 years of service as a police officer in Montgomery County, PA; VSG’s Chris Hinnershitz, suggests there is an immediate need for new cannabis businesses to make contact with local authorities during their respective build out processes. With increased publicity, comes increased need for patrols and regular police presence on site. The best way to ensure this police presence is to make an early, concerted connection to those that will be patrolling the area.
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“Having a good relationship with local law enforcement is imperative to providing a safe and secure environment for employees and guests at your legal marijuana organization during and after the build out,” said Hinnershitz.  “Coordinating your emergency operations procedures with local law enforcement allows for a better response in a time of crisis.”

While not common, a recent article in the Reading Eagle Times newspaper (PA) suggests Muhlenburg Township (PA) authorities are investigating the idea of a “host tax” for incoming businesses that require extra police patrols.

Have you reached out to the local law enforcement officials in your prospective business location? Why not let a former officer handle the introduction?

The Viridis Security Group staff boast law enforcement connections throughout the country and have helped a number of cannabis businesses make positive relations in their respective communities. VSG would be happy to offer consultation or be the lead voice as you guarantee a positive law enforcement relationship during your build out.

3. Properly Vetted Contractors
Whether your new cannabis business site requires some updating or you’re building from scratch, it’s assured that there will be quite a few contractors entering and exiting your location. These contractors will have access to information about the structure, the systems, the layout, intellectual property and any number of other specific details of the business.

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According to VSG staff, it is imperative that all contractors (and their employees) be strictly vetted before they have access to the property. This is especially true for entities coming from out-of-state to open businesses with the help of service vendors who they may not have had a previous relationship.

All those with access to the facility should have updated State and Federal criminal background checks and carry appropriate state contractor’s licensing/insurance.

All Viridis Security Group clients are provided with processes to ensure their employees are properly vetted and trained during their cannabis-industry employment. These same standards can be applied to contractors during build out.
Contact Viridis Security Group for more info on how to ensure your build process is completed by properly vetted contractors.

4. Specific Cannabis Industry Insurance
There are unique challenges and risks associated with the burgeoning cannabis industry. With those unique concerns, comes the demand for an industry-specific insurance package catering to the needs of new cannabis businesses. Combined with a robust security plan, a comprehensive insurance offering is the final piece to maintaining a foolproof security plan during the life of your cannabis business. Viridis Security is currently working with strategic partner Viridis Insurance and Benefits to provide this holistic approach to business security.
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For more info on Viridis Insurance and Benefits and how these two entities work together. Check out the Viridis Insurance website.
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Engaging Employees in Workplace Safety

The long term success of the medical cannabis industry rides on its people. Business leaders will push the overall strategy and direction, but it is their employees who will primarily be tasked with making the company go.  Employee engagement and safety is paramount to any business, and the cannabis industry is no different.  One great way to help foster engagement in the safety program is through the formation of a safety committee.  Safety committees increase buy in among employees, improve relationships between employees and management, help efficiently solve safety issues, and ultimately make your grow facility or dispensary a better place to work.  The discount on worker’s compensation insurance for those in Pennsylvania is only an added bonus!  Below we’ve highlighted a few key considerations when forming a safety committee.

  1. Choose your members wisely! It is important to choose employees who are already engaged with the organization and are mid to high-performing employees. Ideally they have some informal influence within the organization but are not necessarily in a management position. Provide opportunity for new members to join periodically throughout the year and also rotate members on a regularly scheduled basis to continually have fresh eyes on the safety function of the organization.
  2. Address safety concerns and issues immediately: Not only will this positively impact the overall safety of your workforce, but it will also help your safety committee gain credibility as an impactful program within the organization. Give all employees a medium through which they can submit safety improvements and suggestions. Communicate who is on the safety committee to the entire organization so employees know who to go to with safety concerns.
  3.  Include technical training: Equip not just members of the committee but all employees with the skills and training needed to perform daily tasks in a safe and efficient manner. Training on proper lifting techniques, CPR certification, and fire safety are all great ways to ensure a safer employee population. Regularly conduct personal protection equipment assessments especially in areas with a higher exposure to C02, CO, pesticides, and fungicides.

Finally, do not create your safety committee on your own! Partner with a risk management consultant who can advise on choosing members, attend initial meetings, and even provide meeting content.  One great meeting topic to consider right away is employee crime response training.  Be sure to check out Viridis Security Group’s blog on Employee Crime Response Training for more ideas.

– The Viridis Team

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“HOTWASHING” a Cannabis Crime

For this week’s Employee Crime Response Training blog, we sat down with Viridis Security Group’s Director of Professional Services Chris Hinnershitz and Corporate Security Specialist Jim Minninger to “hotwash” the details of a recent robbery at a Sonoma, California medical cannabis distribution center.

According to Wikipedia, a “Hotwash” is… the immediate “after-action” discussions and evaluations of an agency’s performance following an exercise, training session, or major event. The main purpose of a “hotwash” session is to identify strengths and weaknesses of the response to that given event, which is intended to guide future response direction in order to avoid repeating errors made in the past.

For this week’s Employee Crime Response Training blog, we sat down with Viridis Security Group’s Director of Professional Services Chris Hinnershitz and Corporate Security Specialist Jim Minninger to “hotwash” the details of a recent robbery at a Sonoma, California medical cannabis distribution center. You can read the full details of the story here.

In a nutshell, this case involves a cannabis distribution center employee closing the business in the evening and exiting, by herself, to her car in the parking lot. cannabis robberyOnce in her car, she was blocked in by the perpetrators’ vehicle and forced at gunpoint to re-enter the business and open the vault, where, due to cannabis banking laws, there was a stockpile of cash. The criminals quickly canvassed the business before emptying the vault and exiting the property.

Obviously, the growing number of all-cash cannabis businesses presents the opportunity for criminal activity; but with the right combination of employee training and physical security measures the team at VSG believes that risk can be dramatically reduced.

So what details about this CA case stand out for the VSG staff? First and foremost, why was this employee exiting the business by herself?

“The opening and the closing of the facility; going from the parking lot to the building and building to the parking lot is a time when situational awareness has to be elevated,” said Minninger.
“We would obviously want there to be security personnel on duty to escort employees from the building during those times,” Hinnershitz agreed.

And don’t the details of this case scream “inside job?” It certainly seemed like the perpetrators had some cursory knowledge of the exit protocol if not an exact schedule of when employees left the building.

“I’ve been recommending security staff be there an hour before opening and one hour after closing but that shift varies,” said Hinnershitz. “One day it’s 15 minutes, one day it’s 45 minutes.”

This staggered schedule helps to reduce the possibility that a perpetrator can recognize a pattern of behavior in the closing procedure.

What about the behavior of the employee? Was she correct in re-opening the business and vault for the gun-wielding assailants?

“Material or money is never worth losing your life over,” said Minninger.

Once a firearm is added to the equation, compliance is the best procedure.

What COULD have turned the tide in this case were some basic security measures built into the business’s policy and procedure. Things like a “duress button” on the employee’s phone or a secondary alarm code or button on the vault keypad to alert law enforcement of the robbery in real time, are standard features in Viridis Security Group’s physical security offerings.

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And training, lots of training! Included in the VSG list of services is probably the most important piece to preventing criminal activity, Crisis Response Training.
The Viridis team has a proven track record of integrating top quality security policies and procedures in other highly regulated businesses, like pharmaceutical distribution centers, schools and nursing homes; but also training those businesses’ employees in crisis response.

This, often neglected, Crisis Response Training allows legal cannabis businesses to…

  • Clarify roles and expectations
  • Reinforce knowledge
  • Improve individual and team (facility-wide) performance
  • Evaluate the policy/procedure, plans and staff knowledge
  • Identify what works
  • Show areas in need of improvement or additional resources

Are you a legal cannabis business owner looking to improve the training of your employees and reduce risk at your business? Check out Viridis Security Group’s list of services, which include both didactic and practical training for these types of situations and others.

“You always revert to your lowest level of training,” Hinnershitz noted.

Why not contact Viridis Security Group now to make sure you (and your employee’s) level of training is adequate to reduce the many risks that accompany this new industry? Request a Free Quote

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We Received a Medical Cannabis License…Now What?!

The exciting launch of Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program has left a select few businesses racing to operationalize as the first quarter of 2018 quickly approaches. Teams have been finalized, land has been secured, and build outs have begun. An often overlooked aspect of any company’s build out is the insurance program. As groups begin to release capital in the coming weeks and months, it is important to ask the following three key questions:

  1. Do we own the property? Let’s assume, given the short timeframe to operationalize, that the answer is yes. Is your business covered in the event of an injury that occurs on the land you now own? General Liability coverage is imperative for any business and the cannabis industry is no exception. Be sure to carefully review the policy forms to ensure coverage extends to construction exposures at ALL of your operating locations.
  2. Have we started construction? If your answer is yes, it is important to evaluate the need for Builder’s Risk coverage. Builder’s Risk insurance is designed to cover the property itself in the course of construction. Review any contracts held between your general contractor and subcontractors to determine where each party’s insurable interest begins and ends.
  3. Have we hired employees? Businesses in PA with employees on payroll are legally obligated to obtain Workers Compensation insurance. A Workers Compensation claim could arise simply from an employee driving to and from the bank if he or she is acting within the breadth and scope of their duty as an employee. Workers Compensation premium is based on the class of employee and the corresponding payroll dollars associated with that class. Many new ventures experience difficulty projecting their first year payroll in order to receive a rate from the Workers Compensation carrier. For this reason it is important to partner with an insurance company that allows quarterly audits so that your plan accurately reflects projected payroll for the year.

The infant stages of any young business will always have certain risks associated with it. It is important that your business partners with a risk management consultant that understands the cannabis industry and does not advise purchasing coverage not needed at this stage in your operation. A final vital consideration during the build out is your security plan. Securing your facilities properly will ultimately lead to a decrease in the need for insurance claims. Check out our partner, Viridis Security Group, and their blog on “Four Security Considerations for New Cannabis Businesses” for more information.

– The Viridis Team

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