Last month I participated in a panel discussion in Montreal related to the burgeoning business that is legalized cannabis. Joining colleagues at the Genetec Global Press Summit, about 25 security journalists from around the world listened to how Canada is now handling its legalized cannabis industry and what steps the United States is taking to follow suit as more states legalize both medical and recreational use.
According to a 2019 report issued by Grand View Research out of San Francisco, the global legal marijuana market size is expected to reach $66.3 billion by the end of 2025. It is anticipated to expand at a CAGR of 23.9% during the forecast period. Increasing legalization and use of marijuana in medical as well as recreational applications is expected to promote the growth.
Even more evidence comes from New Frontier Data, one of the leading cannabis market research and analytics firms in the U.S., which states that despite cannabis still being considered illegal under federal law as a Schedule I drug, estimated revenue from legal cannabis sales were estimated at $10.4 billion in 2018 and created more than 250,000 jobs in the industry. All these numbers are constantly evolving and will rapidly grow once the Federal Government legalizes cannabis, which most experts say will happen within the next three to five years. Conservative numbers predict that the U.S. marijuana industry will generate $17.5 billion in tax revenue by 2030, according to Vivien Azer, a Wall Street analyst who has been handling the cannabis market for Cowen & Company since 2016.
It doesn’t take much persuasion to convince Tim Sutton that the opportunities open to security professionals in the exploding world of legalized cannabis in North America can be a transformative experience. He is living it.
Sutton has more than three decades invested in the security industry, from both the end-user’s perspective and that of a systems integrator. His expertise spans operational management, loss prevention, physical security and risk assessments to technical security systems design and implementation. He has worked in various security vertical sectors including healthcare, retail, government, manufacturing and property management. Sutton’s professional life, however, changed forever when he joined Sorensen, Wilder & Associates several years back in Illinois as a cannabis security consultant.
“My introduction into cannabis came in 2013 -- that's when Illinois passed a medical cannabis program. I was tapped as a consultant. At the time, I worked in a firm that was a consulting house on one side, and a security integrator on the other side. So, I had a lot of different types of responsibilities. But I wrote security plans for a couple different companies, cultivation centers, and dispensaries. It's competitive process. They won. That made me an expert. Next thing you know I'm everywhere,” chuckles Sutton, who now works as a senior security technology consultant with Guidepost Solutions, a global company featuring investigators, security and technology consultants, and compliance and monitoring experts.
Prior to joining Guidepost Solutions Sutton worked as a director of security for Greenhouse Group, a medical cannabis dispensary serving patients throughout Illinois. He admits he was overwhelmed when he first joined the organization, not realizing the sheer size of the rapidly expanding cannabis industry. Laws legalizing medical marijuana have been passed in 36 states in the U.S. and in the District of Columbia in one version or another.
“I'm no smarter than anybody else, but I was in the right place at the right time. And it has afforded me many opportunities. One of those organizations wanted me to be their director of security. They didn't want me consulting for anybody else anymore. So, I did for two years,” says Sutton, who shared his experience in the world of cannabis security on the panel. “I've worked physically boots on the ground in every single aspect of the cannabis industry from seed to sale, technically and literally.”
Sutton says that as the cannabis industry in the U.S. expands, security is becoming more than an afterthought. He says he sees the shift among security leaders, with the most encouraging sign being that he’s finally dealing with actual security directors and managers manning the helm for the mid-size to enterprise businesses. But he admits that is still the exception more than the rule.
“It is a simple lack of business intelligence on their building process. We see it all the time, but it is changing for the better. The more (security) vendors and integrators work with this industry there will be a better understanding of what security’s role is and how it can improve their product and business future,” concludes Sutton.
Bottom line summary from Sutton and others on the panel, security professionals need to seize this opportunity to consult, integrate and sell solutions to a cannabis industry that offers unlimited revenue potential.
Steve Lasky is the Editorial Director of SecurityInfoWatch.com Security Media, which includes print publications Security Technology Executive, Security Business, Locksmith Ledger Int’l and the world’s most trafficked security web portal SecurityInfoWatch.com. He is a 30-year veteran of the security industry and a 27-year member of ASIS. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.