Should Dispensary Managers Be Armed?

Legal cannabis dispensaries are linked to higher levels of property crime in nearby areas, according to a nearly three-year study in Denver. The study was published online in the Journal of Primary Prevention.

The researchers examined crime statistics for 481 Census block groups in Denver over 34 months (January 2013 to October 2015). When the study began, marijuana could only be sold for medical purposes.

But beginning in January 2014, marijuana outlets were able to sell to the general public, giving the researchers the opportunity to see if recreational sales were tied to increases in crime. They examined three types of crime, based on data from the Denver Police Department:

  1. Violent crime
  2. Property crime
  3. Marijuana outlet-specific crime

The change in the law allowing recreational sales did not result in an increase in crime, results showed. With news of dispensary robberies and shootings that have tragic results have left many managers wondering what can be done to prevent or mitigate the consequences of violent acts – including acts committed in the dispensary workplace.

Should a few trained managers be allowed to carry guns at work? What are the risks and benefits? Employment law attorneys weighed in. Reasons for arming certain employees include deterring an unstable person from trying to commit a violent act and, if a violent act does occur, trying to counteract the threat.

Armed managers would have to have a Firearm Owner Identification card – and a concealed carry permit to carry a concealed weapon. If the dispensary managers have these documents, there should be some confidence that they are trained to use the firearm.

However, the disadvantages of arming dispensary managers are many. For one thing, a manager of a cannabis dispensary is usually not a sworn law enforcement officer, so he or she would not have the same legal immunity from liability that officers have.

Cannabis industry employers already have a lot of things to worry about when it comes to managing their dispensary workforce, so a policy permitting weapons in the workplace would add a great deal of responsibility and risk. It may be more effective for cannabis employers to increase their security budgets so they can install more cameras, hire more security guards or offer more safety training to employees.


Cannabis Dispensary Liability Issues

So what happens if an employer allows guns and one is fired in the workplace? While managers have the right to carry the firearm, assuming they have the necessary permits, such permits don’t authorize the use of force. Rather, managers would be relying on their right to self-defense, which only permits the reasonable use of force to protect themselves.

The issue will then become whether the dispensary manager exceeded the scope of reasonable force and acted negligently or recklessly. The manager could be liable for civil damages for personal injury, wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and, in the case of reckless conduct, punitive damages.

Because the manager would be acting as an agent of the employer, the employer might also be liable and the employer may not be able to purchase liability insurance to cover these risks. Once an employer authorizes an employee to bring a firearm into the workplace, the employer might be precluded from arguing that using the weapon was not in the scope of employment.

Dispensary Employee Morale

Cannabis businesses that consider allowing guns in the workplace should recognize the effect that such a policy may have on employee morale.

The impact may depend on company culture so a dispensary workforce in a rural location, where the presence of guns in the home is common and most employees enjoy hunting, may see this as a laudable step by the Budtenders to safeguard the workplace.

On the other hand, elsewhere, the very same approach may be off-putting and concerning to dispensary employees, one can envision the majority of employees divided into two (2) camps:

  1. Who is terrified by such a policy
  2. Provides a feeling of safety and security

At the extremes, employees might fear for their well-being, especially where a dispensary manager is viewed as being unstable or hot-tempered so strained interpersonal relationships between managers and employees would take on a new dynamic of uncertainty.


Cannabis Dispensary Policy Considerations

If an employer permits guns in the dispensary workplace, it would be wise to run a thorough background check on any employee who plans to carry a firearm to confirm that they may legally possess the gun and show that the employer took a reasonable step to ensure everyone’s safety.

The background check must be done in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and any applicable state laws. The dispensary employer may want to cover certain details in its firearm policy, for example, the policy might address the following questions:

  • Who is allowed to carry a firearm?
  • What type of gun is permitted?
  • Do firearms have to be concealed at all times?

The policy would have to be crafted to comply with local laws regarding firearms in the workplace. It would also need to define the circumstances under which the manager would be permitted to use the firearm, which then raises the issue of defining the reasonable use of force in situations that are not predictable and that require the manager’s judgment in a split second.


Alternative Dispensary Safety Measures

Rather than have dispensary managers carry firearms, employers may want to consider alternative safety measures. Having a trained safety consultant come into the dispensary workplace to perform an assessment can be very beneficial.

Among other things, the consultant can address vulnerable access points to the worksite and any workplace dynamics that may breed violence.

Furthermore, employees can be trained on how to recognize potential threats to safety and how to respond effectively. The basics, like having awareness and a solid safety plan, really can help in an emergency situation.

Let us know what you think.