Securing legal pot: What's the risk?

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09/20/2013

As some know, the world of alarm monitoring can have murky legal waters, and it’s sometimes difficult to tell what risks you’re exposed to as a company until it’s too late. Even exculpatory provisions don’t necessarily make you immune to legal repercussions. If contracts aren’t worded with sufficient clarity or designed with the correct protective provisions in place, the exculpatory clauses may be unenforceable.

Clearly it’s best to err on the side of caution, and to ensure, if possible, that contracts are designed under the guidance of legal professionals with alarm industry expertise. A question posed today on Ken Kirschenbaum’s newsletter illustrates some of these good instincts. And it touched on a growing vertical that’s created something of an industry buzz: marijuana.

In summary, the questioner asked what kind of legal risks securing a marijuana dispensary or growing facility entails for an alarm company. Of course, with the substance being legal in certain states but illegal federally, it’s unrealistic to imagine that risks are the same across the board. From a legal standpoint, the most interesting sub-question, posed by the same questioner, follows below in paraphrase:

What if, for example, a driver under the influence of illegally stolen marijuana gets behind the wheel under the influence of the stolen substance and strikes a pedestrian, killing them? Would the alarm company to any extent be culpable?

In his response, Kirschenbaum said all businesses, illegal or legal, carry some kind of risk, and marijuana dispensaries or growing facilities are no exception. If an alarm system is well-maintained, functioning properly and code-compliant, risk is minimized considerably. “Why should the alarm company care what’s going on in the subscriber’s premises when that alarm signal comes in?” he asked. “The decision is whether to dispatch and to which agency, police department or fire.”

The marijuana example was merely the kernel which Kirschenbaum convincingly expanded into a much broader topic about what alarm companies can and can’t control. “I don’t think the alarm company is responsible for subscriber activity,” he noted. These words from an industry attorney should, if anything, be a source of comfort for alarm companies, who may not have to worry about another front opening up in the war against legal liability.

Still, some caution is advised. But what's Kirschenbaum’s advice for having dispensaries or other high-risk premises as subscribers? “If you get a call to alarm a pot dispensary, take the job and price it right,” he said. “At least you don’t have to compete against ADT."