By Andre Dayani
One of the more important aspects of legal marijuana farming is also one of the more complex: the security. After visiting multiple farms scattered across Washington, I realized the difficulties producers encounter when complying with the state’s onerous security standards. But many people argue the measures are justified since some farms already house millions of dollars’ worth of product.
The Washington State Liquor and Control Board has created several regulations that govern security measures for both indoor and outdoor growing facilities. For the purposes of this article, I will focus on outdoor farms’ fencing and surveillance, although some of the regulations apply to both types of growers.
According to regulations, growers may produce outdoor-grown marijuana in a number of structures including greenhouses, or in an open, fully enclosed ground. A “sight obscure wall or fence at least eight feet high” must enclose the grounds, obstructing public view of the premises. To meet this requirement, producers have a number of options, but many of the producers I’ve met prefer fencing that allowed for both airflow and privacy.
A standard chain link fence equipped with privacy screens and razor wire spirals is a solid option for producers for three reasons. First, it is cheap, readily available and easy to install. Second, the fence is permeable, meaning that air may pass through (unlike a solid wall), beneficial for ventilation of outdoor plants. Third, this option can be altered and moved, should the owner wish to expand his operation.
Note that some counties’ regulations differ on the minimum height of the fence perimeter; so while eight feet is sufficient according to the Liquor Control Board rules, growers should check local regulations before making a final decision.
Other state regulations dictate the type of surveillance required on such growing sites. Let’s focus in on a couple of important provisions.
Owners must set up a surveillance system along the entire perimeter fencing and gates enclosing the outdoor growing site (monitoring outside the fence perimeter and also within the grow site). Specifically, that means any space that someone may enter or exit the site must be monitored, including all areas where any marijuana plants may be transported within the growing area. In other words, if a plant (or its byproduct/remains) passes outside the visible range of cameras without following proper Liquor Control Board protocol, growers could face steep fines or possibly lose their license.
Remember that such a recording system can require a lot of cameras (sometimes as many as 40), recording 24 hours a day; that’s a lot of footage, so a large-capacity hard-drive is a necessity. Producers must store the video footage for a minimum of 45 days, available upon request to any Liquor Control Board employee or law enforcement officer.
The Liquor Control Board gives more leeway to producers in the type of alarm system that they choose to install. At the very least, producers must have “a security alarm system on all perimeter entry points and perimeter windows.” Besides that, the regulations also suggest that producers can install “motion detectors, pressure switches, duress, panic and hold-up alarms.” But remember that armed security services are not permitted in Washington (unlike Colorado). This is just one of the many reasons why producers are best advised to be friendly with local law enforcement.
For the specific rules relating to these subjects, see Washington Administrative Codes 314-55-075 and 314-55-083.
Andre Dayani is an attorney specializing in marijuana law and a staff writer for Marijuana Venture. He can be reached at Andre@MarijuanaVenture.com.