As Missouri hands out its first round of retail licenses in the state’s new medical marijuana industry, regulators are inspecting operations to clear the way for grand openings. Inspections hinge on fulfilling a very long list of strict security requirements and new business owners in a rush could easily overlook important details or fail to think things through. We’ve identified three key pointers to help you fully eliminate risks that could threaten your new license.
1. Don’t Shortcut Lighting.
Facility lighting rises near the top of the list of inspection priorities. State requirements are all about the ability to see everything going on inside and outside of your store – at all times. Dig into the details and the rules may seem like overkill, but you can bet there won’t be any room for compromise.
“You’ve got two very sensitive things inside every retail cannabis shop: a controlled substance and money,” says Mike Markham, Commenco’s Director of Technology Solutions and veteran of the cannabis industry’s rise in Colorado. “Visual monitoring is extremely important and a bigger deal to regulators than you might think. Don’t second guess the requirements.”
Second-guessing is easy to do, especially if you’ve purchased a high-quality surveillance camera system. It’s not hard to find good cameras that deliver stunning clarity in low or even no-light conditions, but that’s not good enough to compensate for Missouri’s strict lighting rules. Markham says even the best cameras will not convince inspectors to go easy on retail license holders. “The bottom line is you need both good cameras and good lighting. That’s the bar and it won’t move.”
It’s also easy to let perimeter space slide. Missouri requires an abundance of lighting outside and all the way around dispensaries. Markham says regulators want to see not only what’s happening but also what’s about to happen.
“They want to see any movement in the direction of sensitive areas, like where cannabis is stored or where money is kept. They don’t just want the ability to see workers handling cannabis and cash, they want to see anyone approaching those areas or approaching the business itself outside. In the event of a security incident, all of that information can provide clues.”
2. Don’t Let Consumer Systems Tempt You.
Larger medical marijuana retail businesses will likely develop strategic plans that carefully consider sophisticated surveillance hardware options and leave nothing to chance. However, smaller stores may be tempted to save a little money with equipment intended for residential consumers. Shopping online or in big box stores may seem appealing, but watch out. Look closely at state rules and you’ll find high expectations for cameras beyond advanced image resolution. Capacity and storage are among them.
“Missouri’s emphasis on ‘eyes on everything’ often translates to several cameras feeding a lot of data into your surveillance system,” explains Markham. “You really need a system with the bandwidth to handle and manage the flow of that data and store it for much longer periods than most businesses are used to. Regular consumer systems just aren’t designed for that and you really don’t want regulators requesting footage that you don’t have.”
Another detail hidden in retail security rules is a requirement to fix system malfunctions within three days and notify law enforcement within 24 hours. You may have a high-quality consumer system that’s installed and set up properly, but have you thought about when something goes wrong? The clock starts ticking and consumer systems won’t give you much of a heads-up, let alone a head start. Markham says it’s always better to be in a proactive position rather than reactive.
“Professional surveillance systems are proactive. They’re going to have built-in analytics to alert you as soon as there’s a malfunction. Otherwise, with a consumer system, it’s up to you to notice the malfunction yourself and that can waste precious time.”
A pro system’s quick notifications allow you to make the most of the time you have for repairs before the risk of violations arises, which leads to another valuable benefit of professional-grade systems > professional support.
“As a business owner, you’re focused on making a go of your retail operation. Do you really want to take time out to troubleshoot a technical problem?” says Markham. “Retailers are typically much more interested in partnering with a company like Commenco because we can take care of all the troubleshooting and repairs while you stick to running your business.”
Not meeting these requirements can immediately threaten your license, and don’t expect regulators to show much patience or flexibility. Before jumping at the chance to spend less with consumer-level surveillance hardware, compare those savings to the cost of losing your license and it’s just not worth it.
3. Don’t Stop After Setup and Installation.
The day your retail cannabis shop passes inspection is a day you won’t forget. You’ll be cleared to open for business and welcome cannabis card holders inside. But you’re not finished yet! Don’t get swept up in all the excitement and forget to plan for the future. Security isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ investment and if you let planning slide, it will come back to sting you.
“The best equipment out there is not immune to glitches and maintenance needs,” says Markham. “You don’t want to spend all this money to pass inspection only to have your license revoked later when something goes wrong and you’re not ready.”
Being ready means customizing both your facility and your future with systems and support planning that meets your specific needs and keeps you in steady compliance with state rules.
Missouri requires retail cannabis stores to keep a security manager on site, but don’t expect that manager to take care of your security systems. The security manager’s main job is to actively manage and protect your physical retail space. You’ll likely need someone else to take charge of security systems.
“Usually that means someone taking on the responsibility of ensuring maintenance and support but not actually providing the service,” says Markham. “Most retailers will have a point person on staff who develops a relationship with a third-party partner like Commenco.”
As you read this, do you see expenses stacking up? Don’t be intimidated. Your security budget is important and well worth it. Markham says the more you invest upfront in surveillance and access control systems, the less trouble you’re going to have down the road. Plus, the responsibility doesn’t have to break the bank.
“It’s more a question of can you afford not to have a Commenco partnership? Security can put your license on the line if it’s not handled well and we know this stuff inside and out. Plus, we scale our services to match the size of your business so we’re more affordable than you might think. It’s just the right way to go.”