Guest Feature

Security in the Cannabis Industry

Nov. 3, 2016: By Tony Gallo, Managing Partner, Sapphire Risk Advisory Group LLC

As we head to the polls November 8 to elect our next president, voters in five states, California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts and Maine, will be considering whether to fully legalize adult marijuana/cannabis use. Legalized medical cannabis only laws are also on the ballot in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota. Currently there are 25 states that have some form of legalized cannabis use laws in place.

Legal cannabis is already a $7 billion industry in the U.S. by some estimates. Adult use cannabis is legal in Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Alaska, and medical cannabis is available in half of our states. A slate of ballot measures from California to Maine could add as much as $20.5 billion to the legal cannabis market, according to an analysis by MedMen, a leading cannabis firm based in Los Angeles. A common belief in the cannabis industry is that it really doesn’t matter who becomes President because the federal government will continue to allow the states to make their own laws.

A big concern in this industry has always been the chance of increase in crime in these retail cultivation and dispensary locations. Public perception of the effects of crime in the legalized cannabis industry will play a major role in how future states make their decisions on cannabis use.

While it may be too soon to look for trends within this limited scope, it’s important to keep an eye on the crime statistics. Let’s look at Colorado, who two years ago legalized recreational adult use cannabis in their state. According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the state saw an overall decrease of 1 percent in reported crimes for 2014. The state also saw an overall decrease of 2.5 percent in the crime rate per 100,000 people. Digging even deeper, Colorado experienced a 3.1 percent drop in property crimes and a 12.8 percent decrease in homicides.

Currently, the cannabis industry is very heavily regulated. In most states, each marijuana plant for sale must be tagged with a radio frequency identification chip, from an early stage of its life to sale, to help the state track it. Most states also require a well-defined security plan that addresses theft diversion programs, robbery and break in awareness, robust surveillance systems, alarm and access control and barrier security i.e.: safes or vault usage. These restricted state required security regulations for cannabis business owners have helped grow a thriving new industry in security consulting, video surveillance, alarm, access control, locks, safe, guards, trackers and vault companies.

When I started in this industry, I knew very little about the specific security challenges in cannabis retail security but I quickly came to realize that the cannabis retail industry is not unlike any other high-risk business such as convenience, pawn, liquor, tobacco, firearms, vapor or jewelry. Each one of these industries has a large amount of cash and very desirable merchandise that need to be protected from theft. Many security policies and procedures in the retail industry can also be applied to the cannabis industry. 


After four years, I continue to support retail cannabis business owners by helping them develop proven security programs to protect their employees and merchandise. I have also presented at numerous cannabis conferences nationwide on the subject of security and loss prevention in the retail cannabis environment. I look forward to continuation of my work in the growing cannabis retail security industry and working with entrepreneurial business owners and managers.

Tony Gallo is Managing Partner for Sapphire Risk Advisory Group (, named one of the Top 100 ancillary companies in the cannabis industry. Tony has more than 30 years of experience in the Loss Prevention, Audit, Safety, and Risk/Emergency Management fields. He is considered one of the leading authorities in cannabis and retail security, armed robberies and burglary investigations.  Tony is a published author on retail security and has spoken at numerous business conferences across the country.  He was named 2015 “Most Influential Person in the Southwest Cannabis Industry”.

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