Medical marijuana security in the Show-Me State

July 23, 2020
Cities like St. Louis are encouraging new cannabis business but are very security conscious

The public knows Missouri as the Show-me State, but that moniker does not apply to marijuana. While the Ozark state became the 12th state to legalize medical marijuana in 2019, recreational use remains illegal.

However, the state has loosened restrictions on recreational marijuana, handing out small fines, rather than jail time, for marijuana possession with a first offense. 

“Missouri entered the marijuana space with the patient in mind. But I think the state is a couple of years out yet for recreational use,” reports Charlena Berry, a principal consultant for Cannabis Business Growth. Berry prepares license applications for prospective cannabis businesses across the country; many of which she writes for prospective cannabis operators in Missouri.

Berry believes the state’s cautious approach will lay a solid licensing framework before adding recreational sales to the mix. She adds, “I see the state transitioning to an adult-use market eventually, but it wants good regulation of medical marijuana first.” 

Control at the State Level

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services acts as the state’s regulatory body for marijuana. “Everything goes through them,” states Berry. “The licensing, the patient cards, the access cards, everything.” 

To date, the Missouri Department of Health has awarded 192 licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries, 60 cultivation licenses, and 86 manufacturing licenses. 

Missouri legislators kept licensing at the state level, unlike states such as California where the locals weigh in too, setting their own regulations for getting a license. 

“There is no licensing at the local level, everything is being done at the state level. The State of Missouri has said we will control the licensing process, while local municipalities control conditional use permits (CUPs). So, if the state awarded you a license, it is because you selected a property zoned for marijuana,” Berry says. 

Berry adds some municipalities even dropped some local restrictions to encourage marijuana businesses to move in. For instance, St. Louis discarded requirements to distance marijuana businesses from churches. “City officials said, ‘We will not enforce that because we want your business in our city,’” she says. “St. Louis is economically depressed, and city government welcomed the jobs the businesses would bring.” 

Security Camera Considerations

Missouri published its cannabis regulation, 19 CSR30-95.040, on June 24, 2019. The regulations include an extensive and detailed security requirement that draws from similar regulations in other states such as Colorado and Oregon. 

The state mandates that facilities install and maintain security equipment designed to prevent unauthorized entrance into limited access areas and to prevent diversion and inversion of medical marijuana. 

Security cameras top this list. Video cameras must provide a recording resolution of at least 1920x1080 pixels and record a minimum of 15 ​frames per second. The cameras must be able to identify people and activities in monitored spaces, in all lighting levels. All video footage must be date and time-stamped. 

And, like Illinois regulations, Missouri requires camera systems allow law enforcement to remotely access cameras in real-time, upon request. Using a transmission control protocol (TCP) capable camera allows access via the Internet.

Cameras must provide views of entrances and exits, including windows and limited access areas. Cameras must view the perimeter and exterior areas of the facility, including at least 20 feet around the perimeter of outdoor grow areas. Cameras also must cover point-of-sale locations, vaults, and safes, and provide views from at least two angles wherever workers cultivate, cure, trim, process, render unusable, and dispose of medical marijuana. 

“These are the minimum standards,” Berry notes. “But the way the state awarded licenses; everything was about exceeding the standards. To get a license, applicants must exceed the requirements and promise something bigger.”

The state requires businesses to store video footage for at least six months in a secure on-site or off-site location or through a service or network that provides on-demand access to the recordings. The storage system must provide recording copies upon request and at the expense of the facility. 

Businesses must protect the entire video surveillance system with a failure notification system that provides an audible and visual alert of any failure in the electronic monitoring system. They also must provide enough battery backup for video cameras and recording equipment to support at least 60 minutes of recording during a power outage. 

Factor in Access Control

Missouri requires businesses to control entry to limited access areas with electronic card access systems, biometric identification systems, or other equivalent means. In addition, businesses must equip access doors with a locking mechanism for use during power failures. 

Access control systems must record access information and keep records for one year, reports Berry. 

She adds, “I write access control systems into every application regardless of what states require. All states require that employees wear a badge. Why not have the badge control where you can go?”

She explains some states, such as California, do not require access control but require logging whenever someone enters a room. An access control system simplifies record-keeping by automatically maintaining these logs, she says.

Missouri also requires access control systems to immediately and automatically notify local law enforcement agencies in an unauthorized breach. The state requires that manual, silent alarms tie to law enforcement agencies at each point-of-sale, reception area, vault, and electronic monitoring station. 

The state also requires a ratio of one facility agent per five visitors at dispensaries. Managing this ratio is tricky. By tying security cameras to analytic suites, the system counts people and sends an alert when the facility falls outside this ratio. 

Hardened Security

Outdoor cultivation operations fall under specific requirements. These businesses must construct an exterior barrier around the perimeter. The state requires protecting the perimeter with an 8-foot tall fence constructed of six-gauge metal or higher chain link, topped with razor wire, and screened to prevent viewing from outside. 

Businesses also must secure windows and design them to prevent intrusion and position a video camera to monitor every window. 

Not required but encouraged are sensors on windows and motion detectors inside the building. Bollard posts outside prevent people from driving their cars into the dispensary. 

The Weakest Link

Employees are the weakest link in every medical marijuana operation. Here, state statutes caution businesses not to overlook this vulnerability. 

Missouri mandates employing a facility manager to audit security twice annually to identify potential security issues. This manager also must train employees on security measures, emergency response, and theft prevention within one week of hire and annually thereafter. 

Berry states facility managers help create a culture that rewards honest behavior. “If the manager turns his or her eye to naughty things, it will create a culture that accepts doing the wrong things,” she says. “But if that same manager creates a culture that says it’s OK to tell the truth, it allows employees to speak up confidentially and not fear retribution.” 

Regulations stand for a reason: to protect the people, profits, and products of cannabis operations. When Missouri marijuana operators follow regulations to the letter, they reduce concerns of theft and robbery and protect themselves from fines and license revocation. 

About the author: Patrick Chown is the owner and president of security system integrator, Safe and Sound Security.  Safe and Sound Security offers security system installation, cannabis security plans, and cannabis security consulting to cannabis companies. 



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