A security measure in cannabis stores to protect children might actually be putting staff in danger.
The window coverings that block kids from seeing weed products have been facilitating criminals as they rob cannabis retail stores, according to Fire & Flower Holdings Corp. (TSX: FAF).
After a rash of robberies in Edmonton that included one of its own locations, Fire & Flower announced it was scrapping the industry standard window coverings.
The rate of robberies at cannabis retail stores is going up, not down, and that’s being facilitated by the vinyl stickers covering windows, Fire & Flower vice president of government, media and stakeholder relations Nathan Mison told Mugglehead.
“Criminals won’t have the capability of having anonymity and I think that was one of the things that window coverings allowed,” Mison said.
Window coverings violate worker safety, expert says
It’s a strategy that Edmonton police noticed in the recent robberies.
According to their reports, three men would enter a retail store and two men would threaten employees with weapons and demand they hand over cash, cannabis and related items. The third man would guard the door and make sure no one came in and saw what was happening.
Covering store windows violated one of the basic principles of retail safety, says Lara Pinchbeck, an Edmonton designer and researcher of the ways humans interact with their environment.
She’s worked as a private consultant for the City of Edmonton and said one of the best ways to prevent crime is a method called natural surveillance — or being able to see in and out of a store, and knowing you can be seen.
“Those graphics are an excellent screen for whoever breaks into a shop to undertake whatever they need to without being seen,” she said.
Natural surveillance can help protect against more than just robberies. When employees are being harassed or feel uncomfortable their discomfort can be seen by passersby, Pinchbeck said.
The window coverings aren’t just frustrating employees.
When consulting for the City of Edmonton, Pinchbeck said the largest amount of complaints came from police officers and security guards.
“If something is happening in the shop of course no one can see in to be able to know that,” she said. “So when they do their drive by’s they can’t quickly look into a shop to see if something is happening there or not.”
Company says they won’t be violating Cannabis Act
Uncovering its windows doesn’t mean Fire & Flower will be violating the Cannabis Act, Mison said.
The act says retailers must keep cannabis out of the sight of children and youth, “but that doesn’t mean you need to have full window coverings to achieve that end,” he said. “That was a provincial interpretation of the act.”
The company will be analyzing each of its 48 locations in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and the Yukon starting next week.
As the window coverings come down the store will use product positioning and merchandising to ensure no children can see weed from the street, Mison said.
As well as updating its current stores Fire & Flower will also keep their windows clear as they build out new retail locations. The company is aiming to have 85 stores open by the end of 2020 and 135 stores open by the end of 2021.
The company is planning on working closely with regulators to make sure it adheres to the rules while also keeping staff and customers safe, Mison said.
The same safety check applies to jewelry stores
It’s the same safety strategy that jewelry stores use, Pinchbeck said.
People can see in, and staff can see out and that reduces the risk of a robbery. But if the store windows were blotted out it would be a different story.
“You probably wouldn’t have your most expensive items on display because somebody could come in and rob you and nobody from the outside world would see,” she said.
When asked about the window coverings, an Edmonton police spokesperson said they were unable to comment on the legislation.
The police will continue to work closely with cannabis retailers to ensure customer and staff safety while ensuring the businesses follow federal, provincial and municipal rules and regulations, the spokesperson said.
Top photo: submitted by Fire & Flower