Marijuana regulators in Maryland have issued guidance meant to help minimize the risk of burglaries and other crimes at licensed cannabis businesses amid what they say is an uptick in thefts targeting dispensaries across the state.
“These burglaries have targeted ATMs inside the dispensaries,” the Maryland Cannabis Administration (MCA) said. “MCA is issuing this notice to help reduce vulnerability to burglaries and to help protect licensees and their employees, as well as patients and consumers.”
Marijuana retailers are typically cash-based businesses, which is largely due to federal laws limiting the ability of banks to servicethe cannabis industry without legal risk. That can make facilities even more appealing to burglars.
Maryland cannabis regulators said that in order to prevent crime, ATMs should be moved “away from doorways, exterior doors, and windows. ATMs should not be visible from outside the dispensary.”
If possible, the tips say, relocate ATMs “to a part of the facility that is separated from any areas directly accessible by exterior doors,” and secure the machines to walls or floors to prevent tampering or theft. Regulators also recommend putting dye packs in the business’s cash box “and/or signage that states the cash box is equipped with dye packs.”
The crime-prevention tips also recommend a host of deterrence devices, including security cameras that work in low light and can be remotely monitored, ATM devices that make the machine difficult to move, ATM sensors and alarms, hidden GPS trackers on ATMS and more.
To prevent entry into businesses themselves, regulators also recommend bollards or other parking lot barriers, “blast, shock and impact resistant films for windows and glass doors,” loud alarm systems with flashing lights and perimeter lighting around the property itself.
“As an additional resource, most Maryland law enforcement agencies have designated specially trained Crime Prevention Units or officers that provide no-cost Commercial/Industrial security surveys for your business,” MCA’s security recommendations said. “These surveys are very effective in reducing vulnerability to crime.”
While many businesses must take reasonable security precautions to avoid being targets of crime, cannabis businesses have been particularly attractive to criminals largely because of the presence of significant amounts of cash. That’s been among the top reasons behind calls for banking reform in Congress that would allow banks to work with state-legal marijuana businesses.
The Secure and Fair Enforcement Regulation (SAFER) Banking Act, which would allow federally regulated banks to service the cannabis industry, cleared the Senate Banking Committee last month, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said he intends to bring the legislation to the floor for a vote “as quickly as possible.”
But last week, the lead GOP sponsor of the SAFER Act in the Senate said that a planned floor vote is on pause until he can ensure the legislation will pass the Republican-controlled House. House Republicans’ delay in choosing a speaker also means that essentially no business is getting done in that chamber.
Meanwhile a majority of Americans themselves—55 percent—say they want Congress to pass legislation allowing cannabis businesses to have access to banking services in states where marijuana is legal, according to a survey commissioned by the American Bankers Association (ABA) and published earlier this week. The results indicate a slight decline in support from when an ABA poll last year asked the same question.
A separate poll of U.S. voters by Independent Community Bankers of America last year found 65 percent support for cannabis banking reform.
Despite sustained majority support among the public for the change, just 13 percent of congressional staffers believe federal lawmakers will pass a marijuana banking bill this session. In a survey that asked staffers to rank the likelihood of 11 different issues advancing, “banking for the marijuana industry” came in third from the bottom.
While earlier versions of the cannabis banking bill have advanced through the House several times under Democratic majorities, its chances of advancing this session came into question after Republicans took control of the chamber. Significantly contributing to the current complications is the fact that the House is without a speaker after a historic vote this month to remove Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from the position.
McCarthy was viewed as a potential ally on the incremental marijuana reform, as he previously voted in favor of the legislation even while he has not championed broader cannabis issues. Now, advocates and stakeholders are watching closely to see who eventually replaces him once the GOP conference reaches some kind of agreement after weeks marked by internal splintering.
The bill’s Senate committee consideration had already been delayed over the summer amid partisan disagreement over a section of the legislation favored by Republicans that they said would prevent broader ideological discrimination against any industry such as the firearms trade by federal financial regulators.
Schumer has already talked about plans to amend it such that it incorporates measures on expunging prior cannabis records and protecting gun rights for marijuana consumers. Others, like Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), have floated additional equity-centered amendments, and the Banking Committee’s refusal to adopt certain of his proposals led him to be the sole Democratic member to vote against the cannabis bill last month.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), meanwhile, sent a letter to Schumer last month to express concern about the Senate’s “ongoing prioritizing of legislation relaxing marijuana laws” over a separate measure the GOP senator favors to permanently prohibit fentanyl analogues.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is also stirring the pot over the cannabis banking bill, with an inflated interpretation of Schumer’s floor remarks last month about his plans to amend the legislation with “criminal justice provisions.”
While Schumer has so far only discussed amending the bill to include the expungements and gun rights provisions, Cotton claimed the majority leader wants to add provisions “letting drug traffickers out of prison.”
Additionally, Sens. Pete Ricketts (R-NE), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Budd (R-NC) and James Lankford (R-OK) recently sent a letter to Senate leadership that argued the SAFER Banking Act would result in the cannabis industry producing higher potency products that would be harmful to youth and compromise “the integrity of the United States banking system.”
Meanwhile in Maryland, the state sold a record amount of adult-use cannabis in September, although sales of medical marijuana dipped slightly. All told, licensed stores sold more than $90 million in cannabis products.
State officials also recently unveiled new resources to help social equity license prepare for an exclusive licensing round that began this month.
Read the full bulletin from Maryland regulators below:
NOTICE: Tips to Reduce Dispensaries Vulnerability to Burglaries
As part of our ongoing efforts to collaborate with and support Maryland’s cannabis licensees, the Maryland Cannabis Administration (MCA) has been monitoring reports of crimes committed at licensed facilities. Recently, MCA has seen an increase in the number of reports of burglaries at dispensaries across the State. These burglaries have targeted ATMs inside the dispensaries. MCA is issuing this notice to help dispensaries reduce vulnerability to burglaries and to help protect licensees and their employees, as well as patients and consumers. Below are some tips to reduce your dispensary’s vulnerability.
Crime Prevention Tips:
→ Location, location, location – move ATMs away from doorways, exterior doors, and windows. ATMs should not be visible from outside the dispensary
→ If possible, relocate ATMs to a part of the facility that is separated from any areas directly accessible by exterior doors
→ Increase staff’s ability to remotely monitor cameras
→ Consider placing dye packs in the cash box and/or signage that states the cash box is equipped with dye packs.
→ Have two staff members independently check that all interior and exterior doors are secured when closing the dispensary.
→ Secure ATMs to walls and/or floors.
→ Be aware of your surroundings (situational awareness) and pay attention to suspicious vehicles or people spending an unusual amount of time watching (casing) the building or customers asking questions that appear suspicious, unusual or outside of the normal transaction.
Consider Installing these crime deterring devices:
- ATM gate, bar or anchor – devices designed to make the machine difficult to move
- Cameras that utilize standard low light or infrared technology
- Cameras directed at and monitoring all ATM locations in the dispensary
- Systems and standalone sensors designed to detect access violations or intrusions
- Sensors such as door/window switches, motion sensors, acoustic sensors, seismic, and thermal sensors can provide additional ways to alert to unauthorized facility access
- A sensor and alarm designed for ATMs
- Alarms that activate a shrill sound and flashing lights
- Hidden GPS tracker on or in the ATM
- Barriers, bollards, or obstacles in the parking lot
- These are designed to protect the facility from vehicle attacks.
- Blast, shock and impact resistant films for windows and glass doors
- These protect against attempts to enter dispensaries by breaking glass.
- Perimeter lighting
- Fixed high-intensity lighting systems can improve visibility in parking lots and perimeters and can deter burglars.
As an additional resource, most Maryland law enforcement agencies have designated specially trained Crime Prevention Units or officers that provide no-cost Commercial/Industrial security surveys for your business. These surveys are very effective in reducing vulnerability to crime. Please contact your local law enforcement agency to inquire.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.