How to secure cannabis facilities with electronic door control and locking solutions

Aug. 24, 2020
Despite all the advanced security technology on the market, keeping product and cash locked down remains a basic rule
This article appears in Access Control Trends & Technologies 2021, a bonus publication to Security Business and Security Technology Executive magazines.

Cannabis business operations face a unique set of challenges that are both public-facing and anchored in strict government and banking compliance mandates. The one common denominator with these challenges is the need for tight physical security to better protect people, property, and assets with two predominant areas of interest focusing on entry/egress points, and back areas where cash is handled.

Given all of the sophisticated security solutions available today, the most pervasive and effective physical security solution for cannabis businesses is to keep facilities, products and cash locked down. Door control technology continues to be a proven first line of defense to help prevent incidents from occurring, effectively keeping both customers and employees safe.

People usually think of doors as a means of keeping someone out, or alternately, keeping someone in. Doors provide privacy and, when locked, a level of security that is both simple and effective. Perhaps you never thought about it at length, but there are many ways that doors can be opened and/or closed. They can be manually operated with a handle or push bar, revolve, swing or even slid into a pocket in the wall – and they can be operated automatically with the push of a button, the swipe of a card or a proximity device, or be programmed to lock if another door is open or unsecure. All of these solutions are appropriate for specific applications in today’s cannabis facilities.

Controlling Physical Access

Perhaps the most essential aspect of cannabis business operations is also the most precarious – customer interaction and access to retail areas.  This earmarks entry/egress control as a primary priority when implementing physical security measures.  Fortunately, there is more door technology on the market today than ever before, including advanced programmable door interlock systems (often called mantraps), which provide very high levels of security. Door interlock systems provide cannabis facilities with a unique form of protection for both customers and employees that is not afforded by conventional access control systems.

Interlock systems have different names based on their functionality, and are commonly referred to as one of the following:

  • Interlocks
  • Mantraps
  • Sally Ports (for vehicles)
  • Secured Vestibules
  • Air Locks

In its simplest form, a door interlock system commonly referred to as a “mantrap” is composed of two doors electronically connected so one cannot open until the other has closed. For cannabis facilities, an interlock door system can provide unrestricted access to an interior vestibule, where customers and/or employees can be screened automatically or by a security guard before entering your facility. Access to the interior of your operation is only allowed when the exterior door is closed, preventing tailgating of unauthorized individuals.

For retail locations, a secure vestibule may be employed. When an individual(s) in the interlocked area is approved, the outer door remains locked, and the individuals are allowed to proceed through the inner door. Conversely, if an individual is deemed suspicious, an alert can be sounded. The inner door will remain locked and the outer door will unlock allowing the potential threat to exit the building. This effectively prevents potential problems from escalating inside your facility.

For employee entrances, a secure-entry vestibule configuration provides a fast method of entry and egress through a combination of locked and unlocked doors. Exterior doors are normally secured and interior doors are normally unlocked. An electronic access system controls entry from the outside and a Request-to-exit (REX) device is used on the interior of exit doors. Unlocking the entry door will lock the interior door of the Secure Entry Vestibule. Once the exterior door is re-secured, the interior door is unlocked to allow access to the facility.

The highest level of security is provided with a restricted entry and exit system, whereby a door is unlocked by a request for access only if no other related doors are unsecured. Opening any one door keeps all other related doors locked. Restricted entry and exit systems will buffer simultaneous requests for access to prevent two or more doors from being unlocked at the same time. This door interlock system configuration is most appropriate for back areas of cannabis facilities where inventory is stored and cash areas are located.

For cannabis distribution facilities, sally ports can be deployed to control vehicular entry/egress using any combination of overhead doors, gates or bollards.

Door interlocks are also available with different modes of functionality. Cannabis facilities with a high amount of pedestrian traffic in the morning and late afternoon may want two doors operating during these time periods with the ability to switch to a single door during midday or evening hours.  Intercom systems can also be added to door interlock systems to allow communications between the individuals inside the “mantrap” and a facility greeter or security guard controlling the system.

For employee access to highly secure areas within cannabis facilities, advanced interlock systems can be deployed with biometrics that read faces, eyes, and/or fingerprints to provide highly accurate identity authentication and verification, adding a much higher level of sophistication and security. This prevents lost, stolen, or replicated physical access control credentials or even simple key locks to be compromised by unauthorized personnel.

While security is the core priority, a door interlock system deployed at cannabis facilities must also be user friendly and safe, or it can become a logjam for customer traffic as well as a potential source of liability. In an emergency, the door interlock system must enable people to evacuate the facility. For example, if the power fails, an emergency override would ensure that the door can be opened manually. Moreover, safety codes may require that the door interlock systems be integrated with the facility’s fire alarm control panel to allow emergency door release.  A local emergency pull station may also be required to allow doors to be unlocked in non-fire alarm emergencies or to interface the system with NFPA 101 delayed egress controls. In every case, local compliance mandates must be carefully adhered to when designing a door interlock system for your facility. Working with a reputable manufacturer and system installer ensures you will get the ease of operation and specific door interlock capabilities and compliance you need, along with high-quality customer support and service.

Door control solutions like interlock systems are highly cost-effective while delivering an effective means of securing your facility. Dortronics is a leading supplier of door control solutions and electronic locking solutions ideal for cannabis facilities. Our experienced team of door control experts are here to help assist with your specific needs with personalized support and products that are made in the U.S.A. We look forward to hearing from you.

About the author: Bryan Sanderford is the National Sales Manager at Dortronics.  Please visit for more information.