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Cannabis & Coronavirus: Staying Compliant While Going Curbside

The coronavirus pandemic had demanded a new model of business operation. We investigate how marijuana dispensaries service their clients while complying with real-time surveillance.
Nov 9, 2020

The medical marijuana business is marked by some of the strictest security measures in a public-facing industry. Yet, the coronavirus pandemic had demanded a new model in business operation. We take a look at how the marijuana dispensaries can adapt and service their clients while complying with state requirements for real-time surveillance.

Dispensing Outdoors and Staying Secure

The visitor experience at cannabis dispensaries is highly supervised. Double doors at the entrance ensure a ’man-trap’ where security can allow entry on an individual basis. Once inside, the client must have their identification cross-checked with an online database. Visitors then proceed to a waiting area, while each zone – sales floor and consultation rooms – is tightly controlled with continuous real-time surveillance. Yet, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, several facilities have opted to provide curbside pick-up for their clients. But how does a remote monitoring system comply with state regulations?

We spoke with one of our clients, the general manager of a Pennsylvania dispensary. They acknowledged that despite being an essential business and remaining open, they had to provide a curbside option to fully protect their visitors and staff. Firstly, they optimized their website to allow for online ordering, as well as providing a phone-in option. Then, they designated several parking spots outside their facility for curbside pick-ups. When visitors arrive, they call to announce their arrival and a dispensary representative greets them at their vehicle, verifies their identity with their legal identification, collects their medical marijuana card and returns to the building to process their check-in.

Our client uses the Genetec security system as their surveillance platform. With each part of the transaction sequence, the surveillance cameras record each interaction and files the footage with that client’s account. The cameras are fully integrated with the facility’s standards for remote monitoring, and should the need arise, the footage is easily accessible. These specific security cameras are multisensory with a 180° radius and have unobstructed visibility over their parking lot and outdoor spaces.

When choosing a surveillance camera, in addition to unobstructed visibility, it is essential for the exterior camera to handle low lighting. As the days shorten and night begins earlier, dispensaries will be conducting outdoor transactions in low lighting. Some security cameras that claim to have night vision are using heat maps to convey human movement. However, these are not capable of facial identification. To comply with state operating regulations, a client picking up a cannabis prescription curbside requires facial recognition. For this functionality, the camera must be equipped with IR illuminators that are extremely sensitive to light and color variations.

COVID-19 Entry Point Safety and Occupancy Management

We have a suite of technology tools and operating protocols to assist with pandemic safety inside the medical marijuana dispensary.

Digital or Touch-free COVID-19 Visitor Surveys: As part of your electronic visitor management protocols, you can automatically send out health screening surveys in advance of appointments. Alternatively, we can program kiosks to administer surveys through verbal inputs to minimize high-touch surfaces.

Thermal Screening: Temperature-taking can be automated through thermal cameras or wrist scanners. In addition, this screening protocol can be integrated into mission control: only visitors who have passed thermal screening are admitted through the next entry point.

Occupancy Counting: While dispensaries are typically high-traffic zones, they are also highly regulated, which makes it a simple plugin to implement occupancy limits. The surveillance system can be programmed to transmit occupancy data to your security personnel or receptionist, and emit alerts if occupancy is nearing the threshold.

Contact Tracing: Once again, because medical marijuana facilities are saturated with surveillance, contact tracing is relatively straightforward. Depending on your security platform, you can install facial recognition software that can intelligently track the movements of an infected visitor or staff member so that you can notify those in proximity.

Managing Cybersecurity and a Remote Workforce

While much of the work within a cannabis dispensary and grow facility is essential and must be done in person, there are still administrative jobs that can be done remotely. A remote user adds an instant vulnerability to the data network, and, given that dispensaries hold sensitive patient data, the network is uniquely positioned for targeted cyberattacks. Here are industry best practices to secure the network:

Secure VPN: A secure virtual private network allows your remote users to access your business network from their homes. Whichever firewalls and cybersecurity software safeguard your network, these will extend to the remote users. This is especially important when dealing with sensitive patient data covered by HIPAA regulations.

Email & Spear Phishing Protection: Spear phishing is an email scam where the hacker impersonates a decision maker in your company and deceives other employees to disclose sensitive financial information. A comprehensive email security solution will use AI analytics to learn the natural language patterns of high-level members of your organization, and flag emails which do not correlate with typical parlance.

Education and Training: 90% of cyberattacks originate through email, many of which could have been prevented if not for human error. A powerful low-tech weapon, especially with a remote workforce, is education, awareness, and training. Several of the cybersecurity vendors we work with include instructional materials to educate the workforce.

DES Financial Assistance Options

Enhancing security and cybersecurity can be expensive. While other institutions have qualified for CARES funding, medical marijuana facilities are not eligible. Additionally, without federal legalization, cannabis businesses have greater restrictions in applying for loans. DES has partnered with credit providers to assist our cannabis clients with several financing options.

Equipment Lease: Choose between a 3- or 5-year lease with deferred payments for the first 90 days.

Cash Flow Recovery Program: Apply for a loan with lower monthly payments during the first years of the term and higher payments in the remaining years, so that you can more easily recover from the current economic climate.

Please contact our sales team for information on any of these technology solutions or financing options.

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