Pandemic puts cannabis security regulations to the test in Illinois

July 15, 2020
Legalization of recreational sales combines with COVID-19 outbreak to create perfect storm of challenges for businesses, state

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of cannabis security features highlighting state regulations and licensing security requirements throughout the United States.

The COVID-19 shutdown went into effect just three months after Illinois legalized recreational marijuana sales. Though recreational marijuana sales were new in the state, Gov. J.B. Pritzker deemed dispensaries, infusers, and cultivation centers as essential businesses during the statewide shutdown.

What followed the governor’s order were long lines, sell-out sales, and a spike in crime near licensed cannabis operations highlighting the importance of sufficient security. Licensed businesses soon learned whether their security plans passed muster. Some owners scrambled to add more licensed security guards and surveillance cameras to better protect their operations. 

Everyone is familiar with security technology as more and more consumers buy it for their homes. But as some Illinois cannabis operators learned during the shutdown, there is a tremendous difference between security systems designed for home use and security technologies designed to secure a marijuana operation. 

At a minimum, security technologies used by cannabis operations must integrate with other technologies; be rugged and designed to work long-term; and store data and video footage for up to 90 days. 

Regulatory Bodies

The Illinois Department of Agriculture regulates licenses for dispensaries, craft grows, infusing, and transportation. While anyone can apply, the state requires applicants to pay a non-refundable $5,000 application fee. Illinois cuts this fee in half if the potential operator qualifies for social equity applicant status. 

The State of Illinois’ social equity licensing provision gives communities historically impacted by arrests and imprisonment for cannabis offenses an opportunity to take part in the legal cannabis industry. The state reduces the application fee and the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity provides low-interest loans to social equity applicants. 

Applicants qualify for social equity status if the business is at least 51% owned by an Illinois resident who has lived in a disproportionately impacted area for five of the last 10 years.

Applicants arrested for, convicted of, or adjudicated delinquent for cannabis-related crimes also qualify. Other qualified applicants are those with a parent, child, or spouse who was arrested for, convicted of, or adjudicated delinquent for cannabis-related offenses.

The proposed business must employ over 10 full-time employees, with at least half living in a disproportionately impacted area, having arrests or convictions eligible for expungement, or family members meeting these criteria. 

The state’s security requirements for recreational marijuana businesses mirror existing standards already for medical marijuana. However, some security requirements have increased. The state now requires a licensed security provider at a dispensary, more robust recordkeeping overall, and security camera systems that the Illinois State Patrol can access.

Illinois evaluates every application on a point system, and each exhibit is weighted by a specific number of points. Applicants receive points for meeting the social equity requirement, their security system and security plans, proposed recordkeeping measures, and more.

Though there are many areas that earn points, applicants earn security points by installing surveillance cameras with 90 days of on-premises storage and access control systems. The state encourages—but does not require—a visitor management system.  

Cameras are the Foundation

With every license, the State of Illinois requires a security plan that includes a security system designed to prevent and detect diversion, theft, loss of cannabis or currency, and unauthorized access. The foundation of this security system is surveillance cameras. 

Regulations require surveillance cameras to monitor all areas, except bathrooms, at licensed cannabis businesses. This includes entrances and exits, lobbies, elevators, employee breakrooms, point-of-sale areas, and the building and property’s perimeter. Illinois operators can extend coverage by employing security officers to monitor video feeds. 

Like most states, Illinois requires that cameras are continuously recorded for 90 days.  At eight frames per second, Illinois’ requires a lower frame rate than most states.  Unlike other states, Illinois specifically calls for the clear identification of license plates, and faces, and even POS monitors. 

Illinois regulations also suggest storing recordings past the 90-day mark when loss or theft occurs. The system must be able to produce a still photo from recorded footage and all recordings must be time and date stamped. 

State regulations require testing cameras monthly to ensure they continue to operate as intended. Illinois also requires that camera systems connect to the internet and give access to the Illinois State Police.  They even call for a failure notification system that provides an audible and visual notification of any failure of the video monitoring system. 

Access Control

Illinois’ regulations about access control are only require “electronic door locks on the limited or restricted areas”.

The state mandates that:

  • Establish a locked door or barrier between the facility’s entrance and limited access areas,
  • Keep the vault room and/or storage areas locked and protected from unauthorized entry,
  • Prevent access to video storage areas,
  • Keep a daily log of access to secure areas, and
  • Ensure access doors have redundant controls to prevent accidental release.

Add in a Visitor Management System

Adding in a visitor management system is a “nice to have” that helps cannabis operators track vendors and visitors and meet recordkeeping requirements. However, Illinois does not require visitor management systems.

Even so, it is a dangerous practice to let just anyone walk in the front door. Every cannabis business should develop a customer and vendor validation plan. The validation system should incorporate one-way video and two-way audio that allows visitors to announce themselves via intercom and provide their ID before being buzzed in. 

Cannabis license applicants push security protection by following Illinois Cannabis Regulations. But, successfully navigating Illinois’ complex security laws requires that operators select the right mix of technology, integrate it so it functions together, and keep it operating well over time.

About the Author:

Patrick Chown is the owner and president of security system integrator, Safe and Sound Security, which offers security system installation, cannabis security plans, and cannabis security consulting to cannabis companies in every legal state. 

SECURACANN Note: In conjunction with and Security Technology Executive magazine, we invite you to participate in the SecuraCann Conference, the industry’s only security exclusive event. Designed to inform commercial growers, dispensary retailers, investors and integrators of innovative technology and solutions to mitigate risk and secure their cannabis operations. This virtual event will take place on October 14-15 will offer a focused look at security and risk issues and solutions, providing an opportunity for an educated decision-making process related to technology, policy and procedure, operations and more. 


Sponsored Recommendations

Security Industry Association announces inaugural 25 on the RISE honorees

This new initiative honors 25 security leaders of today and tomorrow for their impactful contributions to advancing the security industry, and the 2023 class of awardees will ...

How to navigate cannabis security regulations across the nation

Regulators have a formidable challenge in issuing effective, but common-sense security requirements

How K-12 schools can maximize surveillance upgrades

K-12 schools are experiencing a disturbing uptick in violence and other serious security threats. They’re also feeling the pressure from stakeholders to find new and better ways...

GSX Show Floor Q&A: Costar Technologies

Now fully merged with Korean video surveillance powerhouse IDIS, Security Business caught up with Costar’s Mike Rose at GSX to find out the company’s next moves