New York cannabis industry gears up security as governor signs legalization bill

April 21, 2021
Proactive cannabis business owners are taking measures to protect their establishments with the help of commercial-grade security systems

After years of unsuccessful attempts and stalled campaigns, New York has officially legalized recreational marijuana. A bill passed by state lawmakers legalizes marijuana for adults 21 and over paving the way for the growth of a $4.2 billion industry that will become one of the largest in the country. Governor Cuomo signed the bill and made it official on Wednesday, March 31, 2021.

With the stroke of a pen, New York became the 15th state to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. According to the state governor’s office, it required a comprehensive approach that included:

●    Creating an office of Cannabis Management specialized in regulation for medical, adult, and hemp programs.

●     Social equity licensing opportunities.

●     Egalitarian adult-use market structure and help facilitate access to capital.

●     Technical assistance and incubation for equity entrepreneurs.

●     Intent to correct past harms of communities disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition.

New York’s approval is yet another sign of the cannabis industry’s rapid growth. Although cannabis is somewhat legal in 42 states, industry analysts see New York as a game-changer because of its iconic identity and powerful industries.

The legalization of cannabis has made it one of the most promising industries in terms of business opportunities and development. According to a new report, the U.S. legal cannabis market is projected to double to $41.5 Billion by 2025. With such rapid development comes a slew of security issues that cannabis entrepreneurs should be aware of.

Thankfully the state of New York, (as does all legalized states), shared an extensive document explaining all the rules and regulations for cannabis business owners. The regulation makes it clear that in order for manufacturing and dispensing facilities to be in full compliance, they must utilize security systems that include video surveillance, alarm systems, and other physical security measures.

This mandate makes sense especially when you consider that in 2020 New York City witnessed a significant uptick in homicides, shootings, burglaries and car thefts. With this in mind, New York cannabis business owners are preparing their businesses for record sales but also are securing facilities with extensive security systems that include security cameras, alarms, and access control.

With this in mind, proactive cannabis business owners are taking measures to protect their establishments with the help of commercial-grade security systems

Security Requirements for New York Facilities

Dispensaries have to deal with the challenges that come with operating a primarily cash-based business. Additionally, when you consider that their product is in high demand and easy to sell on the black market, no wonder why security is such an important part of any dispensary's operation.

New York legislators understood the importance of physical security and that is why they outlined all the security requirements for manufacturing and dispensing facilities. Specifically, Section 1004.13, details all the security requirements for manufacturing and dispensing facilities.

According to the document, all facilities operated by a registered organization, including any manufacturing facility and dispensing facility, must have a “security system to prevent and detect diversion, theft or loss of marijuana and or medical marihuana products, utilizing commercial grade equipment”.

At a minimum, the security requirements for manufacturing and dispensing facilities include:

●     Video cameras in all areas that may contain marijuana and at all points of entry and exit, which shall be appropriate for the normal lighting conditions of the area under surveillance.

●     24/7/365 recordings from all video cameras.

●     Perimeter, duress, panic, and holdup alarms.

●     Motion detectors.

Security Cameras in All Areas

Central to the security requirements for manufacturing and dispensing facilities is the use of video cameras. Every state that has passed marijuana legalization, requires some form of video surveillance. While each state has its own exhaustive directives covering everything from camera resolution to camera location, they all agree that video surveillance is essential for business operations.

Regarding security cameras, New York’s regulations make it clear that they are required for all “areas that may contain marijuana and at all points of entry and exit.” Additionally, cameras must continuously record for 24 hours and be available for immediate viewing. This last point is especially important because the regulation specifically states that they have to provide officials an “unaltered copy” of recording upon request.

In the security industry, the term “immediate viewing” translates into real-time. This means that cannabis businesses have to install reliable and effective security cameras and video management software that provides this valuable feature. Additional important security camera requirements state that:

●     All video recordings shall allow for the exporting of still images in an industry-standard image format (including .jpeg, .bmp, and .gif).

●     Recordings shall not be destroyed or altered and retained for at least 90 days.

●     Ability to immediately produce a clear color still photo that is a minimum of 9600 dpi from any camera image live or recorded.

●     The system must immediately notify the licensee of any equipment failure or system outage within 5 minutes of the event.

Importance of Alarm Monitoring

The term alarm appears 10 times throughout the document and for good reasons. Since marijuana is still federally illegal, there is a thriving black market for cannabis products. As a result, dispensaries are constantly vulnerable to internal theft or the possibility of armed robbery.

Cannabis security requirements make it clear that facilities must have a fully operational security alarm system on all entry/exit points, and perimeter windows. As with the security cameras, the alarm system must meet certain standards and be programmed to notify a monitoring center in the event of a breach.

The fact is that every dispensary needs a security alarm system. Regarding the perimeter, the system must detect unauthorized access and break-in attempts at all entry points. It should seamlessly alert authorized personnel including local enforcement if triggered. When it comes to alarms and protecting cannabis dispensaries, a perimeter alarm is just the start. The law mandates several types of alarms including:

●     Duress alarm: A silent security alarm system signal generated by the entry of a designated code into an arming station in order to signal that the alarm user is being forced to turn off the system.

●     Panic alarm: An audible security alarm system signal generated by the manual activation of a device intended to signal a life-threatening or emergency situation requiring a law enforcement response.

●     Holdup alarm: A silent alarm signal generated by the manual activation of a device intended to signal a robbery in progress.

Access and Storage

As with other states that have set security regulations for cannabis dispensaries, New York outlined clear access control and storage requirements. Regarding access control, the central focus is to protect the entrance to avoid any unauthorized access. With an integrated access control system, cannabis operators are able to strengthen their security posture and greatly reduce the risk of unauthorized access.

New York’s security requirements underscore the importance of access control by stating that all merchandise must be stored in a secure area or location within the facility and “accessible to the minimum number of employees essential for efficient operation”.

Along with access control, the issue of proper storage and key control are highlighted throughout the document. Specifically, “keys shall not be left in the locks or stored or placed in a location accessible to individuals who are not authorized access to marijuana or manufactured medical marijuana products.”

Additionally, all approved safes, vaults or any other approved equipment or areas used for the manufacturing or storage must be securely locked or protected from entry, “except for the actual time required to remove or replace marijuana or approved medical marijuana products.”

While New York is still in the process of finalizing all rules and regulations pertaining to recreational marijuana, the security requirements are official and security integrators are busy helping cannabis business owners protect their stores and facilities.

About the author: Patrick Chown is the owner and president of Safe and Sound Security. With a commitment to exceptional service and nationwide coverage, Safe and Sound Security specializes in integrating Security Cameras, Access Control, Burglar Alarms, and Structured Cabling. Contact Information: Website:

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