Emerging Issues in Security, Facility Security, Policies and Training

Cannabis Advocacy Group Talks Policy, Security, and the Future

The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is one of the oldest and largest trade associations representing legal cannabis businesses. In an exclusive interview with Total Security Advisor, NCIA spokesperson Bethany Moore said these businesses need security professionals to help protect their facilities because they are “at high risk for theft and robberies due to the cash-heavy nature of our industry, not to mention the value of the cannabis products themselves.”

Moore also provided insights into current laws and the potential future of legal cannabis—information that could be especially helpful for security professionals considering a new career move.

Why Is It a Cash-Heavy Business?

The cannabis business is cash-heavy because cannabis continues to be illegal federally, which means dispensaries cannot accept credit cards. It would be very difficult for them to accept debit cards, as they would need to go through a third party. Also, since it is prohibited federally, cannabis businesses cannot access some services like other businesses can, such as getting loans or occupying space that has a mortgage to a bank or another financial institution.

History & State Laws

The National Library of Medicine reports that California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis in 1996. In 2014, according to the Brookings Institution, Colorado and Washington became the first states to conduct sales of recreational cannabis after they officially made the plant legal in 2012. Since then, most states have legalized cannabis to some degree. Today, it’s almost evenly divided between states that have legalized cannabis strictly for medical purposes and those that legalized it additionally for recreational use.

Here are some fast facts about cannabis legalization for security professionals, courtesy of a policy map provided by NCIA:

  • 19 states have legalized medical cannabis
  • 18 states have legalized recreational cannabis
  • 8 states allow limited legalized medical cannabis products
  • 5 states have not legalized cannabis in any form

Information for the state-by-state interactive map is compiled and updated by NCIA staff and NCIA members Arcview Market Review Research in partnership with BDS Analytics.

Q&A

For NCIA’s thoughts on cannabis policies, security, and predictions, check out Moore’s interview responses below:

Why do you believe some states have started legalizing cannabis? Do you expect more states to follow suit?

Since cannabis was legalized in Colorado and Washington and adult-use cannabis sales began in those states in 2014, many other states were able to see the positive benefits of legalizing, including tax revenues and job creation, not to mention reducing the number of people who are arrested and put behind bars because of a plant.  

Do you foresee cannabis ever becoming legal on the federal level? Why or why not?

Federal legalization of cannabis is inevitable as we have moved the dial and seen dozens of states now with legalized cannabis for adults. With legislation in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, such as the MORE (Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement) Act and the CAOA (Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act), it’s just a matter of time, and continuing to educate the public and members of Congress on the benefits of legalization versus maintaining the stigma from the “war on drugs.” 

For more information on the current efforts of the U.S. Congress to legalize cannabis on the federal level, read up on it on NCIA’s website section “Priority Legislation – U.S. House & Senate” by clicking here.

If cannabis were legalized federally, what are some of the main impacts that could have on the cannabis industry?

Federal legalization would provide a stronger framework for business owners to participate in interstate commerce, which is currently illegal and could provide even more opportunities for small business owners to participate in the legal, regulated industry. Federal legalization would also solve the woes of the cannabis banking problem, and the taxation burden of section 280E of the IRS tax code, both of which are a struggle for cannabis businesses who want to be treated just like any other industry in the U.S. 

For an NCIA primer on section 280E of the IRS tax code, click here.

With the rise of legal cannabis, what role do security professionals play in the business? 

Cannabis dispensaries in particular are at high risk for theft and robberies due to the cash-heavy nature of our industry, not to mention the value of the cannabis products themselves. As a result, security professionals play an important role in protecting the business and its employees and customers. Providing solutions that can prevent these occurrences can help to mitigate or prevent loss or, even worse, someone getting hurt.

Moore referenced a March 22, 2022 episode “Robbery, Theft, and Other Crime Risks in Cannabis” as part of the “The Cannabis Industry Voice” podcast on the NCIA website. This episode is hosted by Moore and features Kevin Mullins and Doug Esposito, members of the Risk Management and Insurance Committee for NCIA.

Do you think the cannabis industry represents a good opportunity for security professionals?

From the cultivation facilities to the edibles manufacturing or extraction facilities, to transportation and distribution, and of course, the dispensary storefront, there is a multitude of layers of protection that the cannabis industry requires in order to continue operating safely.

What advice do you have for security professionals looking to work with cannabis businesses?

First, become a member of NCIA and learn more about the industry from your fellow NCIA members. NCIA’s Risk Management and Insurance Committee is made up of risk and security professionals with even deeper knowledge of the ins and outs of the cannabis industry’s security needs. NCIA offers educational blog content, in-depth webinars, podcast episodes, and more to keep you informed and inspired. 

Moore referenced NCIA’s Industry Essentials Webcast from Dec. 14, 2020: “NCIA Committee Insights: How to Develop a Risk Management Plan for your Cannabiz,” featuring Esposito; Merrill Gilbert, Co-founder and CEO of TraceTrust; Summer Jenkins, Senior Business Development Manager of Cannasure Insurance Services; Jesse Parenti, Programs Director of PCF Insurance Services – Nine Point Strategies; and Stephanie Bozzuto, Co-founder and President of Marketing for Cannabis Connect Insurance Services. 

For more information on cannabis security, be sure to check out Total Security Advisor’s recent two-part article series here.