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Kayvan Khalatbari
Anthony Camera
Kayvan Khalatbari
Dan Williams
Anthony Camera
Dan Williams

Dan Williams, Safe Security


For thieves in Colorado, pot is an attractive target.

It's compact. It's valuable. And thanks to the many neon green crosses that have popped up on main streets and in strip malls to advertise Colorado's booming medical marijuana industry, it's easy to find. And it's about to become even easier.

But if pot thieves think that the expected proliferation of recreational weed shops will turn Denver into some kind of ganja Gotham City, they haven't met Dan Williams. The 36-year-old Williams is president of Canna Security America, which specializes in providing security systems for marijuana dispensaries and grow facilities. That makes him the friggin' Batman of the cannabis community.

"One of our clients, he kept having people break through the roof," says Williams, sitting in his office in northwest Denver a few weeks before stores could start selling recreational marijuana. "So he said, 'You know what? When anybody tries to get into this place, I want it to look like Walt Disneyland on the Fourth of July. Just, like, crazy — whatever you have to do to scare the hell out of them.'"

So Williams's crew rigged the customer's facility with motion sensors, red-and-blue strobe lights and ear-piercing sirens. The next time burglars tried to break in, the sensory onslaught startled them so much that they didn't even bother to climb down the ladders they'd brought, opting instead to jump off the roof and run away.

"It scared the shit out of them," Williams says.

Williams founded Canna Security America in 2009. A former marketing specialist by day and bartender by night, he got interested in security when the restaurant where he tended bar asked him to install its security system because he had a computer-science background. That was just after 9/11, and the security field was rapidly expanding on the East Coast, where Williams was then based. Sensing an opportunity, he decided to jump into the business. In 2006 he moved west and got a job at Envysion, a Boulder security company whose first big client was Chipotle. After a few years, he struck out on his own.

His first client was a friend who owns Native Roots Apothecary, a dispensary on the 16th Street Mall that also has a grow facility. After installing systems for Native Roots, Williams began getting referrals for other pot businesses. "We said, 'Why don't we just specialize in it? Nobody else is doing it' — which we were surprised to find," he recalls. "It's one of those ideas where you say, 'This is a really obvious idea, I'm sure somebody is doing it.'"

When Williams realized that no one was, he decided to narrow the focus of his fledgling general security business and change the name to Canna Security America. "What we'd like to do is become the brand name and household name when it comes to cannabis security," Williams says. In other words, he'd like the company to be the ADT of weed. As for ADT itself, the national security company won't go near the stuff. "ADT does not provide services to medical marijuana dispensaries, even in states where they are legal, because they are still illegal under federal law," ADT says in a statement.

But even if it did, it wouldn't have the expertise that Canna Security America has. That knowledge is on full display when Williams's cell phone rings; the call is from a dispensary owner concerned about a rumor that infrared security cameras will ruin his plants.

"It doesn't affect the bloom at all," Williams tells the owner. "It won't hermaphrodite a plant. We've put one right in front of a plant for a month just to try it out."

"Are you sure?" the owner asks.

"I'm positive," Williams says. After making a few more reassurances, he hangs up.

"That's a good example of how we're different," he says.

Williams was not a marijuana expert before he started Canna Security America, but he has thrown himself wholeheartedly into the industry. He believes that a cannabis businessman can't just be a businessman; he's also got to be an advocate. Williams's first lesson in that philosophy came when he approached the Colorado Department of Revenue about the draft of its proposed security regulations for medical marijuana facilities. The draft was based on the security protocols for casinos, which are among the strictest.

Williams didn't think that applying casino regulations to cannabis businesses made much sense. So he requested a meeting with then-Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division chief Dan Hartman. "We walked in and sat down and said, 'Why do you need this kind of camera? What's the purpose of this?'" Williams recalls. "And he said, 'You know what? We have nobody writing these right now, and you guys have a background in writing regulations, so why don't you rewrite them? And if we like them, we'll use them.' And they ended up using all of our edits and changes."

Those edits allowed the cost of the average dispensary security system to decrease from $20,000 to $4,000 or $5,000, Williams says, which made it easier for small-business owners to enter the market. The draft on which he scribbled his notes is now framed and hangs in the hallway of Canna Security America's new office space. The company was able to rent the space thanks to several recent investments, the exact dollar amount of which Williams is hesitant to disclose. But he allows that it's in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and says the company continues to approach investors.

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8 comments
karlajobro
karlajobro

new to illinois, the medical marijuana industry is being super regulated with very strict rules. I am eager to see it come here, but after seeing the recently released rules and regs from the ag dept, the dept of health and idfpr, it won't be easy...nothing worthwhile ever is, tho. 

Love Dixie Elixirs...yes to this. Expatriate in Illinois

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay

Only Puerile Pot Punks allow themselves to be photographed in suits while stoned.

Barnabey
Barnabey

ganjapreneurs, that's actually pretty clever

 
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