The cannabis industry is thriving in the US. Since 2017, the industry's revenue has steadily increased by more than 25% yearly. The pandemic couldn't stop the growth either. In 2020, the cannabis industry grossed between $17.5 billion and $21.3 billion in revenue, and by 2026 it's expected to reach staggering $41 billion.
Some form of marijuana is legalized or decriminalized in the majority of states. This year, it's legalized in 19 states and has legalized medicinal use in 38. The laws are rapidly changing across all states. Check DISA's interactive map for up-to-date information.
When thinking of starting a business, you can choose between dispensaries and growing operations. Check out our Security Plan for Cannabis Dispensaries if you are interested in a dispensary. Read on to learn more about starting and securing a grow op.
Before the security plan: Business plan basics
Consult a lawyer
This article aims to give you the foundations and components of a solid cannabis security plan to help you get licensed. Cannabis regulations are complex and ever-changing.
Before applying to be a licensed cultivator, you’ll need a lawyer to help you navigate the laws associated with opening a cannabis business. Since federal and state laws will be involved, it’s important to find a lawyer that you trust to help you understand the differences. Keep in mind that marijuana remains federally illegal; don’t get yourself in trouble on a federal level by trying to take shortcuts at the state level. Having trouble finding legal assistance? The National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Laws (NORML) has a database of cannabis lawyers in the U.S.
Learn about your application
To get your cannabis license, you’ll need to submit an application to a state program overseen by the state’s public health department. For example, in Florida, your application goes to the Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU), which is overseen by the Florida Department of Health. You can usually find the application on the program’s website. After you submit it, your application will be graded or rated based on the state’s criteria. Competition is fierce, so you’ll want to make sure that your final product is as polished as possible. If you can manage it, consider hiring a master editor and a director to proofread your application and make it cohesive.
Build a development team
Your team could be the deciding factor between your application and someone else’s. States want to see a team made up of high quality individuals - people who will serve the community once your business is up and running. Some people you may want to consider hiring are:
- Doctors, especially if you are growing medical marijuana
- Engineers, to help you design your growing operation
- Horticulturists, to help you plant, grow, and clone cannabis
- Administrators with marijuana growing experience, to lead your team
- Managers with security experience, to protect your assets
- Managers with operational, zoning, and/or financial experience in medical marijuana, to fill in your gaps of knowledge
Establish your finances
Your finances are another tiebreaking factor in your application. The health department and state government want to see that your business has enough capital to sustain itself through its first few years, which are typically not as lucrative. An application may call for proof of capitalization of at least $250,000, though the exact number varies by state. You should aim to gather more liquid capital than your application requires. This will set your application apart and will also help your business, since more capital means more chances to succeed.
Find a facility
When finding a facility, there are four things you should keep in mind:
- Physical features of the real estate. Is it large enough to sustain the growing operation you want to build? Are the ceilings tall enough to fit your plants, grow lights, and ventilation system? Will you have to clear a plot of land before you can start growing outside? Does the layout of the building make security easier, or more difficult?
- Zoning requirements and related issues. Does the building comply with all state zoning requirements? For example, are you an appropriate distance from schools, libraries, arcades, or other buildings that minors frequent? Are there neighbors nearby who may be unhappy to see a grow op popping up next door?
- Legal and financial considerations. What is the price or the rent? Can your new business absorb that cost? Has the landlord agreed to allow you to grow marijuana in the space? Do you have the option to purchase the facility from the landlord after you have paid the rent for some years?
- Owning vs. leasing. Which is more cost effective? Will the rent add up to more than the purchase cost over time? Which option makes more sense for your business?
You will also need to submit documents that prove your compliance with state and local zoning requirements. These include a lease, letter of intent, or proof of ownership.
The Commercial cultivation security plan
The first step in making a spot-on security plan is conducting a thorough security audit. If you’ve already considered the physical features of your grow facility mentioned above, you’re already a step ahead.
Dig deeper into the location and all relevant data. Figures like the number and types of access entries and local crime rates will give you a better idea of the type of security you need in place.
A door access control system is a must, and a camera surveillance system is often mandatory. If you identify areas in your grow op that require extra protection, you should consider additional security hardware, like window alarm sensors.
Hiring a few security guards doesn’t cut it anymore. An access control system is the foundation for a secure space and often the star of your security plan. It’s the most effective way to prevent unauthorized people enter your grow op and grant access to the ones that do.
Modern access control systems, like Kisi, do so much more than basic keyless access control. You can grant and revoke access privileges at any place and any time, set schedules for specific groups or individuals, receive over-the-air security updates, and much more.
Cloud-based, user-friendly access control systems ease the admin work and empower admins to manage the grow op remotely. The fact that you can revoke access or put parts or the whole place in lockdown even when no one is at the grow op is always reassuring.
Integrating cameras with your access control system will provide an extra layer of security, which is essential for a security plan in highly regulated industries. This integration will help you monitor and keep control of your grow op even when no one is there.
Each state has different security camera rules and regulations. Most states include 4 basic camera regulation types: camera placement, camera quality, footage retention, and law enforcement access.
Complying with the law is necessary for your security plan. Still, consider exceeding some regulations, like the minimal camera resolution requirements, to better protect your inventory, people, and spaces. To ensure remote management and scalability, opt for cloud-based systems.
Establish groups and zones
Focusing on protecting the grow op from external intruders, you might lose sight of securing your facility from the inside. Access control systems, like Kisi, empower you to follow The Principle of Least Privilege - if an employee doesn’t need an access right, they shouldn’t have that right.
If you haven’t dedicated spaces to the different functions, divide your commercial cultivation facility into zones. Based on these zones, grant the right access privileges to the specific groups that will emerge. For example, the people working solely on cultivation won’t need access to the storage room.
With Kisi, you can easily take charge of all visitors, like contractors or third-party vendors. Instead of keeping a stock of visitor keycards that can easily get lost or stolen, you’ll use digital permissions that you can send remotely directly to the visitor’s phone. You can grant them temporary access only for the period of time they need to stay there and only to the spaces they will actually visit.
Grow op emergencies can come in many shapes, like natural disasters, medical emergencies, or even active shooters. The pandemic made it clear that companies must be proactive and prepare for the unexpected.
Modern access control systems, like Kisi, have added features to ensure proactive safety protocols that will stand out in a commercial cultivation security plan.
With ‘intrusion detection,’ for instance, you’ll get instantly notified of break-ins at no extra cost. ‘Remote lockdown’ will empower you to immediately lock or unlock designated doors remotely. In a few clicks, you can override all access permissions to prevent any unlock activities.
Optimizing the number of people on site is another useful pandemic lesson. Kisi’s ‘capacity management’ lets you set maximum occupancy for your spaces. The real-time space utilization data shows as a max occupancy percentage. Kisi will automatically notify you if you are approaching that number, allowing you to stay ahead of safety protocol breaches.
The access control and cameras working in sync are the core of your commercial cultivation security plan. Choosing a cloud-based access control system that offers numerous integrations, like cameras, alarms, and sensors will convey proactivity. Thinking long term, a system with extensive and open API will let you get creative with your security.
The regular over-the-air updates that some cloud-based systems provide, along with all the data and insights, will help with your compliance standards as well. Adminis can easily access event logs and investigate incidents like tailgating, intrusions, and break-ins.
Even though the security plan is a part of the initial business plan, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think a bit ahead. Choosing a comprehensive access control system is crucial if you’re planning to expand your grow op business to multiple locations or dispensaries. Make sure you pick one that can grow with you and let you remotely manage all your locations from one easy-to-use dashboard.
How to proceed with your cultivation business plan
Besides the elaborate security plan, your growing operation business plan must address the following processes:
- Breeding (if applicable)
- Harvesting and dying
You should also explain each stage of your business’ plant production and supply chain process. Many applications will ask for descriptions of your technology and your facility, as well as your quality control and testing procedures.
Different states prioritize different facets of the marijuana industry. Some focus on the health and safety of medical marijuana patients, while others focus on the purity and protection of the product. Read your state’s cannabis department’s website and see what its goals are. Incorporating these goals into your mission statement could give your application an upper hand.
Your application may or may not request additional plans, including:
- Organizational business plan
- Financial projection plan
- Patient confidentiality training
- Record keeping
- Seed to sale inventory tracking plans
- Product safety testing plan
Carry out your cultivation security plan
Creating a comprehensive grow op security plan is a significant part of the licensing process. The more thoroughly you write it, the easier it will be to implement it once your application gets approved.
Commercial cultivation is prone to both inside and outside crime and breaches. When developing your security plan, don’t just consider getting licensed but prioritize securing your people, facility, and product.
If you purchase an access control system like Kisi, you secure your future and save money in the long run. You can restrict access to yourself or a few employees in different areas of the facility. Use your phone to gain entry and avoid misplacing keycards where customers or potential thieves could find them. Integrate with Doorbird to unlock doors from anywhere in the world and use Kisi to track unlock logs. With Kisi, you can prove in your application that your cannabis facility and product are completely secure 24/7.