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The cannabis industry is growing and, with it, the demand to protect its products and workforce from “seed to sale.”

Cannabis businesses involved in cultivation, distribution, testing and retail have an increasing need for consulting and security services—including security officers, perimeter protection, video surveillance, alarm response, mobile patrol and drones, and risk and gap analysis.

According to the Annual Marijuana Business Factbook, 7th Edition, the cannabis industry will generate an estimated $11 billion to $14 billion in retail sales in 2019, up from roughly $2 billion in 2013. Longer-term projections see annual retail sales in the United States surpassing $28 billion by 2023.

With global sales of cannabis also on the rise—according to data compiled by market intelligence and advisory firm Mordor Intelligence, the global cannabis market was valued at $7.7 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $65 billion by 2023—companies and entrepreneurs here and abroad are vying for a piece of the action.

Uniquely Challenged

The cannabis industry has certain unique challenges that distinguish it from other supply chain industries, which can make doing business more complicated and expensive. For instance, the high demand for cannabis goods and their easy black-market resale have made cannabis businesses attractive targets at virtually every stage of the supply chain.

Prior to legalization, organized criminals had to invest significant time, effort and expense to develop and move their product. The work was substantial: trafficking workers into the country, establishing illicit farms in remote locations and protecting their crops from the law and the lawless. Moving harvested product to market required additional layers of risk, from back-alley drug deals to collaborating with other organized crime syndicates and gangs who were no strangers to violence.

Now, a much easier path is available to the organized and disorganized criminal: the licensed cannabis space. Today’s criminals can obtain a list of viable targets from regulatory websites and secure their stock with a simple burglary or robbery, requiring far less manpower, effort, and in many cases, risk.

Beyond product-driven risks, the industry remains largely cash-based, escalating risk factors both internally and externally. Industry data to date indicates that internal theft accounts for about 90 percent of losses, compared with 40 to 50 percent in other retail industries. Cannabis is monitored and controlled by laws and regulations at the state and local levels that may vary significantly, making off-the-shelf security and business solutions unviable.

Holistic versus Piecemeal Approach

A piecemeal approach to security can cost more time and money—something you may not even notice until long after you’ve adopted and implemented your plan. A multifaceted industry like cannabis requires a multidisciplinary approach. In addition to compliance experts, our auditors; risk managers; subject matter experts in agriculture, security, transportation and data analysis; and other consultants make up a team that provides a holistic, one-stop-shopping approach to meeting all cannabis security and compliance needs.

A piecemeal approach also involves working with more than one vendor, which can cause confusion, duplication or disruption of services and time. As an established, global security provider, SOS Security offers a more efficient single-partner solution that can save time and money. In addition, we bring added value through:

  •  Supply chain security expertise across many industries, including cannabis.
  •  Experience rooted in the cannabis industry from the very beginning.
  •  Cannabis regulatory expertise with proven, repeatable plans and processes that can be leveraged to help expedite security planning, operations and reviews.
  • A comprehensive portfolio of services to meet ongoing and ad- hoc needs.

SOS Security also maintains a Special Services Division that trains personnel to meet the unique security needs of the cannabis industry. Because of the nature of cannabis products—cannabis is still an illegal substance at the federal level—it’s important for security personnel safeguarding the product to understand the cannabis culture, operations and protocols. That’s why we provide extensive training based on tactical and operational needs and to comply with applicable state and regulatory security requirements of the cannabis enterprise. Our Special Services Division is composed primarily of former, retired or reserve military personnel.

Addressing Regulatory and Compliance Issues

With one of the first cannabis security forces in California and Nevada, we helped create security standards and developed best practices that have been embraced throughout the country as the cannabis industry expands.

We recognize the unique and vital role that loss prevention, compliance and auditing play in a healthy bottom line—do you? Maintaining compliance and appropriate security at every stage—from planting and cultivating seeds to distributing products to market—will help ensure business profitability and success.

Reducing and Managing Risk

A good risk management plan can help mitigate these and other business and security liabilities. In business for 50 years, SOS Security has decades of experience identifying and reducing risks throughout the retail supply chain—experience that’s easily transferrable to the cannabis industry and that businesses operating in a new and rapidly growing market need.

An effective plan begins with a thoughtful design of the premises and a thorough risk assessment to identify operational flaws and gaps that relate to best practices. We examine state and local laws, regulations and safety standards; facilities; operations; and geography before formulating a customized plan for each client that includes affordable measures, procedures and programs to reduce risk and ensure security and compliance. Built-in audits and compliance reviews address oversight requirements for the industry.

We are leveraging our toolbox of business- and security-related resources and services to cannabis businesses across the country. With offices in most states and around the globe, we’re looking for strategic partners who want to join us in meeting the unique needs of this unique industry as it continues to unfold and expand.

About Author: Andrew Silverman

Since 2002, Andrew has been providing physical security services, executive protection, and consulting to Fortune 1000 and U.S. Government clients, both domestically and abroad. He specializes in areas such as training, special services, investigations, major events and crisis management, and works closely with CEOs, dignitaries, heads of state, boards of directors, celebrities, and media and other public figures.

About Author: Matt Carroll

As Client Services Manager, Matt brings more than 23 years of experience in public and private law enforcement, crime prevention through environmental design, threat assessment, security planning and services provisioning to the team. Following a career in law enforcement, Matt co-founded Paladin Security, the largest private patrol and response company to ever operate from a single location in the United States. Paladin joined SOS Security in 2019. Matt is also the founder of Carroll Security Consulting and specializes in security systems integration/planning, database and website development, mobile app development, GPS tracking systems, training program development and implementation, tactical communication, commercial cannabis security planning/consulting (operators and regulators).

About Author: Bob Larkin

After a lengthy career in security and operational management at Macy’s, Bob founded Asset Protection Associates (APA) to assist retailers with shrink management and proactive solutions to increased sales and profitability. After APA joined SOS Security in 2014, Bob joined the executive team as Executive VP for Global Retail and continues consulting with retailers on matters such as organized retail crime, royalty assurance and profit maximization for retailers with franchise-based operations and security officer standards. Notably, Bob provided retail operations consulting at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, where he helped forecast physical security needs such as locking hardware, lighting, and CCTV requirements. He also assisted with crowd control management and crisis response planning, and served as a liaison with law enforcement on safety and terrorism-related incidents and training the security staff on emergency preparedness.

About Author: Craig Matsumoto

As Vice President, Risk and Loss Prevention, Custom Risk Solutions, Craig leads global loss prevention, asset protection and risk control strategies. Previously, he was Managing Director of Loss Prevention at Protiviti Risk Consulting, which followed a 26-year career in retail risk and loss prevention, which included serving as Director and Vice President of Loss Prevention and Audit for Mervyn’s Department Stores, T.J. Maxx and Reebok International. He has served as President of Radius under the Creative Options umbrella, and CEO of LP Innovations. An engaging speaker and thought leader, Craig has been interviewed by several major media outlets, including CBS, where he appeared in a “60 Minutes” segment exploring the impact of organized crime on the retail industry. Craig also has been actively involved with industry steering committees established to set global norms for key issues such as source tagging standardization for RFID applications. Craig has led close personal protection efforts for high-profile executives, international icons, celebrities and athletes, tapping into an extensive global network of specialized resources necessary for prominent engagements. Craig attended the University of California at Berkeley and Fresno State University. He is a member of the National Retail Federation, Retail Industry Leaders Association, Retail Council of Canada and ASIS.