Safety and Security: “Do It Right The First Time”

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Safety and Security: “Do It Right The First Time”

The passage of Proposition 64 along with the approval of many municipal measures throughout California on November 8, 2016, opened the “green rush” floodgates for the legal cannabis industry in California with many entrepreneurs seeing the opportunities and trying to stake their claims.  Both seasoned and new cannabis entrepreneurs have found that navigating the new legal cannabis industry in California, as it moves into mainstream corporate America, is like changing a tire on a moving car.  Estimates suggest that the California cannabis market will be bigger than all of the other markets combined.  Therefore it is important that All the requirements are completed as precisely as possible and are done right the first time in order to obtain licensing to operate in California.

In working with various clients throughout the State of California, I have discovered that most cannabis business owners and operators will truly make every attempt to follow the existing rules and regulations as set forth by their local government, while patiently awaiting the State of California to publish their additional requirements. 

With safety and security being a primary concern for each city and there is an emphasis on the importance of a well-rounded and robust security plan. So much so, that the local governments have made a significant piece of the application process dedicated to the safety and security plan for cannabis dispensaries, extraction/manufacturing and cultivations facilities.  In anticipation of the State of California publishing rules and regulations in the very near future, you must design your safety and security plan beyond what the local jurisdiction is requesting.

Through my experience in writing numerous safety and security plans for the application phase for various cities across California, I have found that some local jurisdictions are well organized and well prepared and have very precise regulations to follow.  On the other side of the coin, some cities have stated; “We are not security experts, so we are asking you, the entrepreneurs, to present a safety and security plan/solution to us with your application and we will let you know if we accept it.”

You and your team should be writing a scalable plan that will exceed the city requirements and strive to meet the anticipated state requirements so that the final product will need few if any adjustments. Any advice to the contrary where you are simply writing a safety and security plan with just enough information to “Get By” for the city application process will potentially have negative and expensive consequences.  I have observed that when entering into the cannabis industry in any state from the beginning, all entrepreneurs have one thing in common; they hemorrhage money in the beginning.  Therefore, thinking about the upcoming California State licensing requirements as an afterthought, could potentially prolong the hemorrhaging of financial resources with potential costly building and security system redesigns and may result in you not obtaining a city license which you must have prior to obtain a state license.

During my initial consultations with potential cannabis clients in California who are preparing for the application phase, I advise them to find a “cannabis specific” attorney, an experienced architect and a security company that are competent and has the expertise to bring “real world” safety and security solutions to your facility.  Having a collaborative and cohesive team of professionals working together to complete and submit a comprehensive safety and security package with the application significantly increases the probability of approval.  

The application process is very competitive with many more applicants than available licenses.  In some circumstances, applicants may only have one shot to get it right the first time so using proven professionals can be the difference between becoming a successful cannabis entrepreneur or not.  It is also important to note the exorbitant application fees in various cities across the state that range from $10,000.00 to $50,000.00 per application, and up to $4,000.00 in additional costs for applications that need revisions.  

At the end of the day, cities want to ensure that each operator is making safety and security the highest priority for the protection of employees, clients, first responders, and most of all the community. and its members.  Cities will require operators to have a solid Facility Security Plan, Operational Security Plan, and Fire Suppression Plan. In order to be successful, those plans must meet or exceed the respective City’s application requirements, as well as the State of California’s Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA) and the new Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA). As Subject Matter Expert’s (SME’s) and operators work together on facility designs and the above-referenced plans, they should anticipate that the State of California will likely impose additional requirements that go beyond those currently established by local governments and MMRSA.  It would be advisable for SME’s and operators to identify “best practices” and incorporate those into the facility design, as well as making the security package scaleable so any new requirements can be quickly implemented, saving both time and money.

It’s important that your chosen Security Agency has oversight responsibility for the implementation of the plan.  By creating a “big picture” understanding of organizational risk, a resilient security plan can better assist organizational leaders to recognize security concerns, identify risk mitigation strategies, implement risk management policies, and choose which risks to simply accept.  A successful holistic safety and security plan requires integration of the plan throughout the organization, by developing a collaborative dialogue involving multiple functions to identify the common risk concerns, challenges, and possible solutions.  This dialogue addresses a myriad of security and safety issues: physical, personnel, and information security, transportation, business/competitive intelligence, intellectual property and brand protection, privacy, fraud prevention, ethics, supplier management, legal, investigation, pre-employment screening, business continuity, and safety/OSHA compliance.  Ultimately, integrating security solutions within a company’s business architecture enables security to increase throughout an organization via cost-efficient risk mitigation.


Effective development of the Safety and Security plan requires consistent analysis and comparison of the threats, vulnerabilities, and risks that a corporation might face.  

Written by; Vern Abila, President, 

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