Strategies to Prevent Cannabis Theft and Loss

by | Mar 22, 2024

Strategies to Prevent Cannabis Theft and Loss

From the dimly lit streets of a bustling city, a dispensary seems like any other ordinary shop. Yet, within its walls lie a treasure trove of cannabis products—carefully curated strains, potent edibles, and a myriad of other offerings awaiting eager customers. But as night falls, the dispensary transforms into a fortress. It must do so, simply as a matter of survival. Knowing how to prevent cannabis theft and loss is one of the most critical lessons that any cannabis business owner can learn. And, if you don’t safeguard your precious inventory, it’s a costly lesson.

Fortunately, there are several proven strategies to secure your products and prevent cannabis inventory loss. Put these in place at your business to protect your green “gold.”

Why It’s So Important to Prevent Cannabis Theft

The cannabis industry—burgeoning with growth and promise—faces significant challenges when it comes to safeguarding its inventory. With the value of cannabis products steadily rising and regulations tightening, the need for robust security measures has become paramount.

According to a report by the Marijuana Business Daily, cannabis retailers lose an estimated 2% to 5% of their inventory annually to theft—with a full 90% of those losses attributed to employee theft—making it imperative for businesses to fortify their defenses against such threats.

All states that have legalized retail cannabis sales have also instituted strict security requirements for these establishments. These requirements are partially in response to lingering public fears about legal cannabis. Like it or not, if you want to keep your license, you’ll need a full array of security measures. (For details, see our guide to Security Requirements for Dispensaries by State.)

In the cannabis industry, the importance of cannabis security solutions such as safes, locking cases, tagging systems, and surveillance to protect against potential losses can not be overstated.

Securing Your Cannabis Inventory: A Matter of Survival

Inventory loss in the cannabis industry is a very real threat. Dispensary theft, human error, and product degradation can eat away at profits and, in some cases, threaten the viability of a business.

As the market matures and competition grows fiercer, safeguarding your cannabis inventory isn’t just a good idea. It’s also necessary for your survival, to say nothing of the state regulations and requirements. Consider:

It’s a big business with big risks and big rewards. If you lose your license or take a major hit from an avoidable theft, that’s profit you’ll never recover.

The Sobering Statistics of Cannabis Inventory Loss

Let’s be blunt (no pun intended): inventory shrinkage is a problem for businesses of all sizes. However, it can be especially devastating for cannabis business operators. Here’s why.

  • The Allure of a High-Value Product: Cannabis products, especially top-shelf flower and concentrates, command premium prices. That makes them a tempting target for thieves both internal and external.
  • Strict Regulations: Cannabis businesses face rigorous compliance requirements. Accurate inventory records are non-negotiable. Discrepancies can lead to costly fines or even license suspension.
  • Limited Insurance: Traditional insurance policies often have exclusions for cannabis businesses, making it difficult or expensive to get coverage against theft or losses.

The numbers paint a concerning picture. The average “shrink rate” (the retail term for all inventory loss, including theft, damage, expiration, errors, and so on) across all industries is 1.3%. For a cannabis business, this can add up to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars lost each year.

Before diving into specific security measures, cannabis businesses must grasp the gravity of the threat they face. The illicit market for cannabis remains lucrative Opportunistic thieves target dispensaries and stores for their valuable inventory.

Your business needs protection.

Fortifying Physical Security to Prevent Cannabis Theft

One of the best ways to prevent cannabis theft is to invest in robust physical security measures. There are several major categories of physical security to consider.

Access Control

Of course, commercial-grade locks with deadbolts and alarms on all entry points are your first line of defense. If thieves can’t get in, they can’t take anything.

Other physical security measures include installing high-quality safes and vaults to store bulk inventory securely. Tamper-evident packaging and locking display cases can further deter thieves, making it challenging for unauthorized individuals to access products without detection.

However, some of these measures may not prevent internal theft effectively. To mitigate the threat from your own employees, control access to your storage areas, with only authorized personnel having keys or access codes. You’ll want—and possibly even be required by state law—a system to automatically track access to secure areas, safes, and vaults.


Security cameras placed strategically throughout your property—with special emphasis on storage areas and points of sale—act not only as a theft deterrent but also provide invaluable evidence in the event of a security breach.

Advancements in technology, such as automatic threat detection and cannabis live security camera monitoring, empower businesses to maintain vigilance over their premises, even in the face of evolving security threats. Deep Sentinel’s cannabis surveillance systems offer real-time threat response backed by artificial intelligence and professional security guards. The instant the guards receive an alert about suspicious activity on your property after hours, they intervene and call the cops on your behalf.

Deep Sentinel security cameras

Safes and Secure Storage

Invest in high-quality safes for your most valuable products. Opt for models that are bolted to the floor and difficult to remove. If it’s possible and legal to do so, keep bulk inventory at a secure off-site storage facility.

Invest in Inventory Technology

The right tech tools turn inventory management into an asset protection powerhouse:

  • Seed-to-Sale Software: Seed-to-sale tracking systems, as mandated by regulations in many areas, provide a precise chain of custody for all your cannabis products, making discrepancies easy to spot. Popular options include Bamboo, GrowFlow, and Canix. Nectar Cannabis in Oregon, for example, cut their inventory losses by 80% in the first 90 days after switching to Flowhub point-of-sale. These savings translated into a 20% increase in profit margins.
  • RFID Tagging: Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags allow you to track individual products, providing real-time inventory visibility and alerts for unusual activity. In addition to bolstering physical security, dispensaries can leverage technology to track and monitor inventory effectively. RFID tagging systems enable businesses to trace products throughout the supply chain, making it easier to identify any anomalies. Moreover, integrating these systems with inventory management software provides real-time insights into stock levels.
  • Weight Verification: Use accurate scales at weigh-in and points of sale. This helps prevent both errors and intentional under-weighing scams.

RFID technology, in particular, has a very positive impact, reducing inventory shrinkage by 1.5-2%, increasing revenue by 5-15%, and improving inventory accuracy by as much as 25%.

Employees: The Key to Compliance and Customer Satisfaction

Your employees are the backbone of your business. That goes for its security, too.

Hiring and Training

Before you hire a candidate, perform a thorough background check. It’s not a bad idea to perform periodic checks on current employees as well.

Well-trained and knowledgeable employees are the backbone of a successful, safe, and compliant cannabis dispensary. Ongoing training is essential to ensure staff members understand and adhere to ever-evolving state regulations. This includes topics such as age verification, legal purchase limits, prohibited sales practices, and responsible consumption education.

Beyond regulations, trained staff are equipped to confidently recommend products, answer complex questions, and provide an exceptional customer experience that builds loyalty.

The Power of Protocols: Consistency and Accountability

That which gets documented gets done (consistently). Clear, detailed protocols for tasks like inventory control, cash handling, product labeling, and incident reporting ensure everyone on staff is on the same page.

Established protocols streamline operations, minimize errors, and make it easier to identify and address inventory discrepancies. A well-defined protocol system fosters a culture of accountability and responsibility, ultimately helping to safeguard your business and reputation.

Prevent Cannabis Theft and Protect Your Green with Deep Sentinel

Don’t wait for thieves to strike. Invest in physical security measures, employee training, and advanced technology like Deep Sentinel’s cannabis surveillance now. If anyone is rooting around after hours, we’ll see and stop them before they can cause damage.

Securing cannabis inventory is not merely a matter of protecting assets. It’s also about preserving the integrity of the industry and ensuring regulatory compliance. By implementing a comprehensive security strategy that includes cannabis security camera solutions like Deep Sentinel’s, businesses can mitigate the risk of product loss while maintaining the trust of their customers, employees, investors, and the public.

As the cannabis landscape continues to evolve, prioritizing security measures remains paramount. With smart proactive measures, cannabis business owners can fortify their defenses against potential threats, ensuring a more secure environment for all stakeholders.

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