No cannabis operation is immune to theft, as it is a growing problem in the industry. Whether you run a small farm in the Northern California mountains or run a dispensary downtown, your cannabis business could be a target of thieves and burglars. Thieves can resell product either on the street or through illegal, unpermitted dispensaries that exist in some states.
The insurance industry has seen the evidence of the high rate of theft, as 90% of all U.S. cannabis industry insurance claims have involved theft. Sometimes the thefts are smash and grabs that destroy your property as well as steal your product like the van that smashed through a wall in Corktown, Detroit, so the thieves could get inside a dispensary to steal vape pens and edibles. Other times these thefts take a more violent turn with armed robbers, such as the six men that robbed a cannabis distributor in Calaveras, California. Some have managed to thwart the worst intentions of thieves, like the time when thieves in Colorado Springs unknowingly stole Oregano out of the display case and not the real deal.
Insurance experts are finding a higher level of sophistication in cannabis theft operations than one might expect. Thieves often seem to know ahead of time the security they will be facing, and it’s unclear how they are getting this information. No cases of direct inside involvement have been discovered, so no employees have been accused of leaking sensitive security and facility information.
But could the low wages of facility staff be a cause of the trouble? Employees that make minimum wage or a little bit more are handling millions of dollars in product on a regular basis. There may be some employees that are getting ideas and telling their friends, leaking the information, but it remains unclear. This is one of the many reasons it’s important to hire the right people and conduct pre-employment screening to lower the risk of staff being involved in theft. Making sure your employee morale is high and they are taken care of can also be a great theft deterrent.
While employees may leak security information, it’s possible that the security systems are not adequate or not installed properly and the thieves were able to scope these weaknesses out. Cannabis operators are required to have security systems in place, but not all security systems are created equal. Business owners will sometimes choose to buy an off-the-shelf security system at the hardware store and set it up themselves, both to save money and to prevent security professionals from scoping out the site. But this can lead to major gaps in security surveillance for motion-sensor cameras and lights.
Paying out cannabis theft claims is a whole other matter. The biggest challenge is to get the value of the product lost correct, as market fluctuations change and a producer may have over-evaluated their products. Pricing is constantly shifting as the market continues to evolve, and getting the claims paid correctly is crucial for insurers.
What are the biggest security challenges for the cannabis industry? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.