Let’s be Blunt – Time For A New
Critical Infrastructure Sector?
By Luke Bencie and Sami Araboghli
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has identified 16 infrastructure
sectors that are critical to the safety, security, and way of
life of the United States. Varying from our financial systems
and energy grid – to healthcare, transportation, and communication
networks, any disruption to these systems would wreak havoc on
the American way of life. Thankfully, DHS has crafted resiliency
plans to counteract almost any “what-if” scenario
that can happen, with the help of federal, state, and local authorities.
However, there is one sector that is inevitably becoming a national
commodity, something that federal security and financial regulations
haven’t been able to accommodate yet. That sector is the
multi-billion dollar medical and recreational cannabis industry.
Albeit controversial, sales of marijuana (and cannabis-related
products) reached $9.2 billion in 2017. After years of being considered
a drug with a high-potential for abuse and no accepted medical
use, legalization has so far encompassed 33 states and the District
of Columbia. The schedule I drug has become so popular with mainstream
users, Forbes predicts that sales will reach $48 billion annually
in less than a decade. Consider the following: If you spent $20.00
per second, every day for three years, it would add up roughly
to the amount of cannabis sold in the State of California alone
in 2018 – over $2.5 billion and mostly transacted in cash.
With amounts like this in prospect, why wouldn’t people
want to get in on the action?
Despite the glowing financial forecast, there remains a dark
side to the cannabis industry. The not-so-dirty secret is the
tremendous security threat posed to marijuana cultivation facilities,
point-of-sale dispensaries and cannabis – and cash handling – transportation
operations. Unlike other retail locations that sell, for example,
expensive jewelry, antiques or fine art, most cannabis consumers
prefer to use cash for their transactions (even though dealers
verify their identities prior to purchase). Couple the influx
of cash with the fact that most banks refuse to do business with
the cannabis industry, and you end up with facilities sitting
on excess stacks of paper currency. The situation creates all
kinds of security issues not faced by other businesses.
Make no mistake, this is still the narcotics business… and
narcotics draw criminal activity like a moth to a flame.
Still, there’s no clear guideline for the assurance of
safety and security for all who are involved in the medical or
recreational cannabis industry, forcing companies to improvise,
adapt, and overcome the barriers that are put in place. Its vexed
legal status has sparked debate between federal and state authorities,
resulting in a complex business structure. Since cannabis is still
not legal federally, there are still many hurdles that the industry
must jump over to prevent the Pandora’s box of security
nightmares from ever opening.
With more than half of the states in the U.S. having already
legalized marijuana for medical use (and a handful of those states
legalizing recreational use as well), it’s not only inevitable
but imperative that the federal government accept the reality
of its growing importance and acceptance in society – and
identifying the whole industry as a critical infrastructure sector.
This is a necessary first step in protecting large-scale cultivation
centers and distribution outlets. The Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) should recognize – with proper input from the Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) – that federal security
guidelines should be enacted to ensure that proper safety and
protection for employees, customers, product and facilities.
Establishing a new critical infrastructure sector is easier said
than done. Doing so would require much insight into its resiliency
and response plans, as well as identifying and mitigating its
encompassed risks. Interestingly enough, a methodology already
exists for exactly that purpose – and its been the go-to
threat and vulnerability assessment method for security professionals
for decades – and its called CARVER.
The CARVER Target Analysis and Vulnerability Assessment Methodology
is a system that uses specific procedures, both qualitative and
quantitative in nature, to interpret and determine the Probability
of Attack from an adversary against critical assets and/or key
resources. Originally developed by the Office of Strategic Services,
the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency, during World
War II, CARVER was an offensive targeting tool used to determine
where bomber pilots should most effectively drop their munitions
on enemy targets.
About the Authors
Luke Bencie is the Managing Director of Security Management
International. He has provided security consulting to dozens
of cannabis cultivation centers and dispensaries in the
U.S. and abroad.
Sami Araboghli is a Junior Associate at Security Management International.
Note: this is
only a partial article sample, please signup below to get the
Get one year of magazines and newsletters for the low price of
$65 Click Here!