In 2021, CA’s cannabis industry posted a hefty $5.2 billion in sales according to end-of-year reports from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA).
That’s enough to make most people think that security is probably a good investment, but in a state that still has more than 30,000 people behind bars for marijuana-related crimes (that are no longer crimes), there is another layer to the importance of private security for marijuana dispensaries - police allegedly looking the other way during dispensary theft.
Multiple accounts of police disinterest (at best) and corruption (at worst) have been made amidst the increased theft in the cannabis dispensary space, allowing for private security firms to have opportunities to “grow” their own businesses alongside the pot shops they service by offering both physical security from thieves and legal security from the state.
Below this list of cannabis security firms is an in-depth look at the whats and whys pertaining to some of the services they provide.
Best Dispensary Security in California
Here is a look at some of the best security firms in California that have been marketing themselves to cannabis dispensary owners, and what they offer compared to other private security firms. Remember, a security firm offers a wide range of services, and you should consider each company listed, comparing what they offer with what they need—no, you’re not being overly-cautious. As you’ve seen, security is becoming more and more important.
Cannabis Security Group
Headquarters: Manteca, CA
Cannabis Security Group is a division of Kingdom Group Protective Services, a Manteca-based firm with ~65 employees that offers:
- Security guard services
- Armed transport
- Security plans for dispensary licensing
- Law enforcement liaison service
- ID verification scanning service
- 24/7 dispatch service
Cannabis Compliant Security Solutions
Headquarters: San Francisco, CA
This Bay Area company prides itself on its background in law enforcement and understanding the legalities of the cannabis industry. They are committed to protecting their customers from both theft and illegal searches by local law enforcement, as many of their team members have backgrounds in cannabis law enforcement. Here are their services:
- Law enforcement liaisons
- Security guard training
- Alarm systems & camera setup
- Access control and badging
- Physical security audits/reports
Nationwide Dispensary Security
Offices In: Sacramento, Los Angeles, Oakland
This subsidiary of Xpress Guards (that admittedly looks like it’s probably just a website that funnels its dispensary inquiries to the parent company) is available across the state and provides these services:
- Security guards
- 24 hour service
- Emergency response teams
Seed to Sale Security
Service Areas: San Francisco Bay, Greater Los Angeles
Seed to Sale security is a firm that is available in 30 states, but does most of its business in California. Here are some of the services offered:
- Video surveillance
- Video analytics
- Cloud-based access control
- Burglary alarms and response
- Cannabis security consulting
- Cannabis security facility planning
Fidelity Security Services
Service Areas: Los Angeles, Orange County, San Bernardino ,Santa Clarita, Glendale,San Fernando Valley, Ventura County, Palmdale/ Lancaster
This large-scale operation serves most of California, and though it does offer dispensary services, it does not have a specialized branch of business dedicated to them as the others here do. They provide 24-hour security guard services.
Services Provided by Dispensary Security Firms
With legal cannabis still only being five years old in California, laws continue to change rapidly, and having a security team that understands those laws can really help protect your business against individuals on both sides of the law. Not all companies are the same, but you can expect these security firms to offer a few basics.
Here is a closer look as some of the things being specifically offered to members of the vulnerable dispensary industry:
Dispensary Licensing Security Plans/Consultation
There are more than 20 different cannabis facility licenses in the state of California including those for indoor and outdoor cultivation facilities, manufacturing facilities, testing laboratories, and, indeed, distributors and retailers.
For retailers and distributors, security is one of the many boxes that need to be checked in order to obtain a license, and depending on security firms for this is very common in the dispensary industry.
Armed Transport Services
There are several armed transport services for cash and product movement, but some security firms that offer dispensary security also offer armed transport. What does armed transport do for you? You can protect shipments that are coming to your business, or you can protect shipments that are going out. What’s safer? a secured van with armed guards or a regular truck with an unsuspecting driver? The same is true with your deposits. Have an armed vehicle take your deposits to the bank for its own safety. If thieves will steal the deposit from a clothing store at the mall, they’ll most certainly target your business.
Security Guard Services
Every firm on this list offers some form of security guard service. The norms are offering trained, armed and unarmed security guards, and most of these are available 24/7. Additionally, many also offer training so dispensaries can employ their own qualified, in-house security teams.
Law Enforcement Liaison Services
Another “being familiar with the laws” bonus lies with companies that offer liaison services for instances when law enforcement does get involved with dispensaries. Legal teams and private investigators are usually part of any liaison services offered by dispensary security firms.
Manning a large dispensary 24/7 can be quite costly, so firms offer access technology installation and monitoring to control building access. Badging systems are very common, as are fingerprint scanners.
Much like armed transportation services, there are most likely several independent surveillance businesses wherever a dispensary may be. However, security firms specializing in dispensaries will have a better understanding of when, where, and how to monitor access points and other areas of the business.
Why Do You Need Dispensary Security?
Dispensaries are subject to many different kinds of theft from swiping a pre-roll joint off of a shelf to the armed robbery of a cash drop at the end of a busy weekend. Almost all “budding” industries are more subject to crime than their time-tested counterparts, and the legal cannabis industry is certainly no exemption.
In addition to criminal activity and petty theft, there are still frequent accounts of unjust raids by police and federal law enforcement teams, as well, making the security needs for dispensaries and other cannabis industry businesses some of the most robust in California.
Shoplifting isn’t statistically any more or less frequent in the cannabis industry than in other retail industries, but nonetheless it is something that happens. In-house security guards, surveillance, and access services help deter this kind of crime.
Similar to shoplifting, petty theft from employees is also no rarity in the cannabis industry, and camera monitoring and other types of surveillance help limit it.
Armed robbery at dispensaries has been a very serious issue over the last year, especially in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. With allegations that police are often “looking the other way” when it comes to dispensary-related crime, there really is a need for dispensaries to take protection into their own hands.
Gunfire during these robberies is also becoming more frequent, and having and armed security detail with plenty of training is, unfortunately, almost a must in some areas of the state.
Crime involving the theft of dispensary money being transported is much less frequent, but most cannabis businesses utilize armed transport services even if they don’t have the most potent in-house security in place.
Police raids are still frequent in the dispensary industry and if a business is not within the compliance guidelines of their license, it is a lot harder to defend against the police. Security firms that understand the laws and make sure dispensaries remain within the compliance guidelines help protect products and investment from legal seizure.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is cannabis legal in California?
Cannabis is recreationally legal in California for both residents and visitors over the age of 21. Legal cannabis can also be obtained medically by individuals over the age of 18.
How do I buy cannabis legally in California?
In major cities it’s hard to throw a rock and not hit a dispensary in California. Cannabis delivery is also legal and very common throughout the state.