Security Specialist Tells Licensees Current and Future: “Embrace the New Law”
Background checks on all of your partners and employees, even on your relatives: That was the message of security consultant Bill Cousins at the May meeting of Women Grow-Southeast Michigan chapter. Cousins, a former special agent of the United States Secret Service, warned attendees that the new laws are strict. “Don’t go online for the cheap version. You get what you pay for.”
The New Political Landscape
The new law is the product of three house bills that were passed last year:
- HB 4209 requires growers, processors, transporters, and providers to be licensed according to strict guidelines.
- HB 4210 continues tax exemptions for seniors at residences including nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
- HB 4827 sets up an extensive tracking system for every cannabis plant.
According to Cousins, the new state requirements will help to keep individuals with histories of criminal problems out of the industry. “This is good because, first of all, you want reputable people obtaining licenses as it will help the public to view the business owners as professionals.”
The employee background check requirement “is a must” because of the amount of money any license owner will be investing.
There is too much temptation between the cash in the business and the product. All verifiable information needs to be checked, including past employment, education, any civil litigation against the employee, current residence, and criminal history: no felonies in the last ten years; no misdemeanors for a controlled substance in the last five years. Are they legally authorized to work in the United States? For veterans, what kind of discharge did they have?
That said, Cousins sees a downside to the new law. “The new law essentially requires the licensee to waive his or her Fourth Amendment rights. Law enforcement will be able to conduct inspections, investigations, and audits at will. You will likely be fingerprinted by a police agency.”
Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), the Michigan state department that controls the fate of all state license holders and applicants, is struggling to get up to speed with the new law:
Remember, they are supposed to receive guidance from the individuals who will be appointed to positions on the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board per HB 4209. The governor is six to eight weeks behind in appointing a board. Until those appointments are made, LARA can only do so much preparation on the administrative side of the house.
Meanwhile, compliance has seemed to take on an extra urgency. “It is all in the timing of when the law will go into effect. Because the state has been slow to make the proper appointments to state positions, the question becomes, is the state going to be ready to deal with the massive amounts of applications. This all remains to be seen.”
How will the new law affect litigation and harassment?
“At the beginning, I see license applicants and owners challenging the new laws and how they are written. Remember, we are in uncharted territory here so there will be a lot of questions that need to be answered – most likely by the courts. To avoid litigation or when in doubt, follow the advice of your attorney.”
To the business owner and license applicant, Cousins says, don’t wait around for the state to act. They will get it together eventually. When they do, you want to be ready for them.
A good security system, for example, should include an assessment plus “the proper technology to mitigate gaps in security. What kind of cameras do you have and where are they located? Can you view the premises from your iPhone? Who has a key? It is a constant, ongoing process that needs to be updated every couple of years. Any facility is vulnerable on all four sides, the roof, and, if a basement exists, from down below.”
Because a cannabis facility is an attractive target for thieves, “Your security plan should provide for 360 degree coverage including the outer, middle, and inner perimeters of the property, and include liability coverage in case someone is hurt in a robbery.”
And avoid the common error of purchasing technology from salespeople who don’t know anything about it. “There are a lot of charlatans out there, so make sure the person and company you hire know what they are doing.”
Hiring a Professional
For Cousins, business has been good: “I have met many outstanding individuals, pioneers, who are entering into an industry with a lot of unknowns because of the difference between federal and state laws, not to mention federal banking laws. I have had the opportunity to act as a consultant to help design security plans for existing and new facilities. So in general, the new law has been good for my business.”
He urges every business owner and license applicant to seek the professional advice of “a competent, educated, and certified professional” at the beginning of the business. “Doing this saves time and money that may be wasted needlessly.”
A good professional should have experience, education, and certifications. They should belong to and be active in professional organizations. A good professional should have a network of other professionals who have expertise in various areas.
A good security professional can perform many services including conducting vulnerability and risk assessments of the facility, addressing all security needs, and providing advice and counsel. In addition, “The professional should be able to act as liaison between the business owner and the local authorities. The police haven’t embraced the idea that you’re there, so get someone who can deal with them.”
Cost for a background check ranges anywhere from $150 to $1,000.
Embrace the Law
Cousins encourages business owners to embrace the law. At the same time, be ready for it to change:
In principle it is here to stay. However I am positive there will be some adjustments to the law and its requirements as time goes by.