Maintaining a proactive security awareness and mindset for all cannabis employees working in a dispensary is paramount for safety. The individual employees themselves are always their greatest protectors. Practicing good security regimens will drastically reduce the likelihood of a robbery and/or a violent confrontation during open hours.

Duress Word(s):

A duress word or phrase that is kept internally and confidential amongst Budtenders and management staff is a great way to alert others of undesirable patrons that are causing problems in a retail or medicinal dispensary environment.  These words can be simple, but must be obvious (only to employees) that there is something wrong and that others should remain alert and aware, as well as aid the employee that has stated the duress word or phrase. For example: An intoxicated individual enters a cannabis dispensary and is either being difficult/unruly/ or otherwise overly aggressive towards staff and property, and has no business remaining within that dispensary. However, avoiding confrontation is also paramount, thus it is in employee’s best interest to alert other staff of this potential confrontation, but without the unruly patron knowing. In this example, Sarah is the budtender that has made liaison with this unwanted patron. Sarah doesn’t know exactly what this person wants, but because they are being disruptive, she uses the dispensary’s duress phrase of “yellow dragon.” She says it in a mild and casual manner, within a sentence to her manager asking “do you know if we are all out of yellow dragon?” Since there is no such marijuana strain; the dispensary manager, as well as all other staff are now made aware that Sarah either feels uncomfortable, or is concerned for her safety and the safety of others in the dispensary. From this point a security procedure that avoids confrontation and de-escalates any potential situation should be executed into play to get the unwanted person out of their dispensary.

Avoiding Confrontation/De-escalation:

Learning to avoid confrontation in cannabis dispensaries is a skill and will take time to hone in. However, here are the best tips for unruly patrons in your establishment.

  • Listen to the customer and show them you care, but don’t give them the idea that you will be verbally abused or pushed around. Maintain a mindset that you work there and you run the show, they are a guest, therefore try to emphasize this fact to them while being neutral at the same time. Remember… you want to deescalate any situation, not fan the flame.

  • Use the proper tone. Don’t mock a customer by laughing, don’t agree or disagree, but be firm. Try to convey empathy without giving an opinion, this will likely give them the idea that they aren’t making progress with you, thus will reduce your chances of being victimized.

  • Maintain a one arms distance—Set a Limit If possible (if the situation has escalated) create a barrier, for example; if you are standing in an open area with the customer, put yourself back behind a counter or point-of-sale (POS) system to create some distance. Never allow an unruly customer to lay a hand on you.

  • Evade the situation if you feel things are growing past your control…This is the key—control; either remove yourself from the situation if things have escalated and/or refer them to a manager who is trained to deal with unruly customers. When in doubt, get help, even if it means contacting law enforcement.

Checking ID’s & 1-on-1 interaction:

Cannabis dispensary employees should always check ID’s for obvious reasons to ensure the customer is 21 or older for recreational use or has the proper identification to prove they are a medicinal patient. In addition to this, an often unused (however a best security practice for cannabis operations) is to keep a customer’s ID until they leave the store. For example; when a customer walks in (preferably in a controlled lobby atmosphere) an employee (or security guard) trained to properly check government issued ID’s and verify their validity, should properly greet the customer, check their ID and either keep their ID in a secured area until the customer is ready to leave, or hand off their ID to a budtender or employee who will be assisting that customer until they have made their purchase and are ready to depart. Orienting the store front in a way that forces the customer to exit in or around the same area they entered will help to ensure security or front-of-house staff to return the correct ID to the customer. This best practice will greatly reduce the chances of robbery or unruly customers to create confrontation when they know their ID is with dispensary staff.

            When ID is either retained or handed off to a budtender, that budtender should maintain a 1-on-1 interaction and assistance for the duration that the customer is in the store. This not only promotes good customer service, but deters customers from wandering or browsing on their own, which reduces the chances of an unruly customer to create confrontation, or surreptitiously survey the dispensary for a future robbery. A final tip when dispensary staff is assisting a customer is to never volunteer too much information. Beware of patrons that ask questions that are not relevant to their buying experience, such as questions that pertain to security in any capacity, or how many employees are working and when.

-Derek Porter

  CEO