The enhanced role of security guards in cannabis operations

July 20, 2023
Owner/operators must be realistic in their expectations and create strong oversight for personnel

When it comes to security guards, setting realistic expectations is paramount. Hiring companies need to understand that guards, regardless of their level of experience or training, can only fulfill their duties effectively if the demands align with their pay rates. In addition, the importance of internal oversight and ongoing training cannot be overstated. By acknowledging these factors, we can foster a more professional and competent security industry, ensuring the safety and well-being of all involved.

Why is this so important? In our experience, business owners often miss these two critical steps and focus on getting the “body” to their location or facility. Business owners also often make their choice based on price alone, not fully understanding what they are getting themselves into. Understandably, many businesses operate on an extremely specific budget and cost is often a leading factor. Having said that, I cannot stress enough the importance of (at a minimum) understanding that price matters. I hate to see business owners pay money to guard companies expecting a solution that never occurs.

There are many different use cases for guards as we all know. Ranging from entry-level (cheapest) guard companies to executive protection agents (often former law enforcement, military, all highly trained) who command top dollar. Let me give you an example:  several of my former collogues are now retired from the Force and looking to make a few extra bucks. Some of these guys were “cops” for 20-plus years but rarely had a public-facing job in the department or seldom left the comfort of their office. Others were highly motivated, self-starters, and always looking to improve. Even in the Guard world, these two folks command much different pay rates. Some command $150+/hour for private executive protection details.

Aligning Expectations with Pay Rates

One crucial aspect of optimizing the performance of security guards is aligning expectations with pay rates. Hiring companies must recognize that guards who receive limited compensation may face challenges in fulfilling their responsibilities. Realistic expectations should be set regarding the scope and nature of their duties, considering the level of risk they might encounter. By providing fair compensation, companies can attract and retain highly qualified guards who are motivated to perform their duties to the best of their abilities.

It is important to understand that expectations and outcomes are very different We see too many people associate guards with a result to a problem: trespassing, shoplifting, encampments, loitering, etc. I worked a foot beat in downtown San Francisco, and I worked many overtime shifts at private businesses that paid police officers to stand at their storefronts and inside their buildings in hopes of curbing many of the problems listed above. Almost every single one of them (if not all), also had hired guards. That always confused me. Why would you spend money on guards (that didn’t stop said problem) just to pay law enforcement overtime rates to help solve said problem? The point is, when neither was there, the problem was present.

When one or both were there, the problem was present, it was just managed differently. I still raise my eyebrows when I hear somebody with a genuine security-related issue and their response is to “hire security.”  There are now more cost-effective and efficient ways to manage security-related issues, which are not as guard dependent as we are today. I just want business owners to understand where their resources are being spent and align that with realistic expectations and goals. Security is oftentimes a moving target and many clients don’t have the financial resources to invest in the answer all at once and should be designed as a phased approach.

Internal Oversight and Ongoing Training

A key component of maintaining a proficient security force is the implementation of robust internal oversight and ongoing training. It is essential for guard companies to prioritize regular evaluations and performance assessments to ensure adherence to protocols and standards. Additionally, investing in continuous training programs allows guards to develop their skills, stay updated on industry best practices, and respond effectively to evolving security challenges. This commitment to oversight and training fosters professionalism, instills confidence in the public, and enhances the overall effectiveness of security operations.

Most crucial is with entry-level guard companies, who tend to have higher turnover rates than companies on the other end of the spectrum. I’ve seen video footage of a security guard using crutches because he had a leg cast, standing “watch” outside a cannabis facility. Not only does this bring potential liability, but I later learned that the business owner chose the cheapest option. I applaud the young man for his dedication to his job, but internal oversight was either deficient or non-existent to allow this young man to be in this position.

Cannabis Specific Limitations

Security guards are often required during operational hours at retail dispensaries. This is a line item that cannot be ignored. Given the unique operating limitations specific to taxes and write-offs we’ve found that many cannabis operators choose the cheapest option for guard services. Let’s be honest, just like other jobs or service sectors, you get what you pay for. If you hire the cheapest guard service, please don’t expect a retired police officer, Marine or somebody with decades of experience and sophisticated training. Obviously, these guards exist, however, they command a much higher pay rate than the cheapest bill rates. I have friends who are retired military and law enforcement who command $90+/hour, no questions asked. These individuals spent decades in their respective professions and invested dozens, if not hundreds of hours, taking courses that taught them how to transition from their fields into the private security sector.

Conversely, if you hire the cheapest option, be realistic regarding what solution you are receiving. In our experience, there are plenty of folks who currently command an entry-level rate but ask for more. These individuals thrive in an environment that supports them, invests in them and verbalizes their potential. We’ve found some incredible people who have extensive interest and knowledge in areas that have further helped bring value to our clients.

Couch Your Expectations

Establishing realistic expectations based on fair pay rates and emphasizing internal oversight and ongoing training is fundamental to optimizing the role of security guards. Hiring companies play a crucial role in ensuring that guards are equipped with the necessary resources and support to perform their duties effectively. By recognizing the importance of aligning expectations with compensation and investing in strong oversight and training programs, we can create a safer environment for everyone. Together, let us strive for a professional and competent security industry that upholds the highest standards of safety and protection.


About the author: Chris Eggers is the CEO and founder of California-based Cannabis Compliant Security Solutions (CCSS), a consulting firm founded in 2021 with a mission and vision to re-define, disrupt, and significantly improve cannabis security and risk management for all licensed cannabis operators, including social equity operators and applicants. Learn more about CC Security Solutions.

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