Industry Insights
Jun 25, 2024
Peter Berg

How to Manage Risk in the Cannabis Industry

The cannabis industry has unique risks. 

As business owners in the cannabis sector, it is important to understand and manage these risks to ensure long-term success and sustainability. 

Let’s explore the common risks you can face and look into strategies for mitigating these risks, maintaining compliance, and navigating the insurance landscape effectively.

Top 5 Risks that Cannabis Businesses Face

1. Theft and Security

The high value of cannabis products and the cash-heavy nature of transactions make cannabis businesses prime targets for theft and burglary. This results in significant financial losses and operational disruptions.

According to the Los Angeles Police Department, robberies were the motive behind 151 crimes reported during the first nine months of 2023 at medical and retail cannabis dispensaries.

Here’s how cannabis experts at Frontier Risk suggest that cannabis businesses can protect themselves:

  • Train employees on security protocols and emergency response procedures.
  • Implement strict access control measures to limit entry to sensitive areas to authorized personnel only.
  • Invest in robust security systems including surveillance cameras, alarm systems, and secure storage facilities.

2. Product Contamination and Quality Control

Contaminated or poor-quality products can lead to consumer health issues, product recalls, and legal liabilities. Due to the complex cultivation and production processes involved in cannabis operations, this risk increases even more.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Source cannabis from trusted suppliers that implement rigorous quality control processes throughout the cultivation, production, and distribution stages.
  • Regularly test products for contaminants such as pesticides, mold, and heavy metals, and obtain certifications from reputable laboratories.
  • Develop and adhere to detailed SOPs to ensure consistent and safe product quality.

3. Regulatory Compliance

The cannabis industry is subject to a complex and evolving regulatory landscape. Non-compliance with local, state, and federal regulations can result in hefty fines, license revocations, and business closures.

Here are three tips:

  • Stay informed of changes in laws and regulations at all levels of government.
  • Hire dedicated compliance officers to oversee adherence to regulatory requirements.
  • Maintain thorough records of all operations to demonstrate compliance during inspections and audits.

4. Financial Risks

Cannabis businesses often face challenges securing traditional banking services, leading to difficulties in managing cash flow and financing operations. Plus, the industry is vulnerable to market volatility and economic shifts.

Here are a few steps to help you navigate the financial landscape:

  • Explore alternative financing options such as private equity, venture capital, and cannabis-focused financial institutions.
  • Implement robust cash management practices to handle large volumes of cash securely and efficiently.
  • Develop detailed financial plans and contingency strategies to navigate market fluctuations.

5. Legal and Liability Risks

The potential for lawsuits related to product liability, workplace accidents, and intellectual property disputes can pose significant threats to cannabis businesses.

Here are a few ways to steer clear of legal risks:

  • Engage experienced legal counsel specializing in cannabis law to navigate legal complexities.
  • Secure comprehensive insurance coverage to protect against various liabilities.
  • Properly implement rigorous workplace safety protocols to minimize the risk of accidents and injuries.

Strategies to Mitigate Risks and Maintain Compliance with Insurance Coverage

Here are a few strategies for mitigating risks as a cannabis entrepreneur:

1. Comprehensive Insurance Coverage

As cannabis businesses, it’s important to secure adequate insurance coverage to manage risks in the cannabis industry. Especially given the unique risks involved, cannabis businesses require specialized insurance policies.

Key insurance policies include:

Also read: Cannabis Insurance Trends in 2024

2. Regular Risk Assessments

Conducting regular risk assessments helps identify potential vulnerabilities and implement proactive measures to address them. Following are some steps to assess risks:

  • Conduct a thorough analysis of all aspects of the business to identify potential risks.
  • Assess the potential impact and likelihood of each identified risk, and prioritize the most destructive risks.
  • Create detailed plans to mitigate identified risks and minimize their impact.
  • Regularly monitor the effectiveness of mitigation measures and review risk assessments periodically.

3. Employee Training and Staying Updated

Well-trained employees are crucial for maintaining compliance and mitigating risks.

  • Train staff on security protocols, including handling cash, securing premises, and emergency response.
  • Implement training programs on workplace safety, proper handling of chemicals, and emergency procedures.

Plus, it’s crucial to stay informed via cannabis podcasts about the latest industry trends, regulatory changes, and best practices in the ever-evolving industry.

3 Best Practices for Minimizing Risks – Expert Advice

1. Establish Strong Internal Controls

Strong internal controls are essential for preventing fraud, theft, and operational inefficiencies. This can be done in various ways:

  • Separate responsibilities among different employees to reduce the risk of fraud and errors.
  • Conduct regular internal and external audits to identify discrepancies and ensure compliance.
  • Implement robust inventory management systems to track and control product flow accurately.

For example, suppose a company gets penalized for improperly registering every data point into the track-and-trace database as required by law. In such cases, leaders can establish better internal communication channels, define ownership of duties, and set up a review and oversight process to identify potential risks in advance.

2. Develop a Crisis Management Plan

A well-developed crisis management plan enables businesses to respond effectively to emergencies and minimize their impact. This can be done in various ways:

  • Outline clear procedures for responding to various types of emergencies, such as natural disasters, theft, and product recalls.
  • Establish protocols for communicating with employees, customers, regulators, and the media during a crisis.
  • Develop strategies for business continuity and recovery to minimize downtime and financial losses.

3. Foster a Culture of Compliance

Creating a culture of compliance within the organization ensures that all employees prioritize regulatory adherence and risk management.

This can be done in various ways:

  • Demonstrate leadership commitment to compliance and risk management.
  • Offer incentives and recognition for employees who consistently adhere to compliance standards.
  • Provide ongoing training and education on compliance and risk management practices.

As the industry continues to evolve, staying informed and adaptable is key to thriving in this dynamic and high-risk environment.

If you’re looking for expert advice on cannabis risk management in 2024, or looking for comprehensive cannabis insurance solutions, get in touch with us at Frontier Risk

Peter Berg
Chief Development Officer
Chief Development Officer at Frontier Risk, seasoned cannabis industry executive, with extensive corporate development, M&A, operational & regulatory experience.

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