BOSTON (CBS) – Security experts say Massachusetts’ new marijuana shops are like modern-day fortresses, where nothing valuable stays in one place for long.

“These stores don’t keep product overnight in a lot of instances,” said Ed Davis, who has helped some of them draw up strict security plans leading up to this week’s recreational sales debut. He’s acted as a consultant to several, including New England Treatment Access, or NETA, in Northampton.

“Security is our number one priority,” said NETA Compliance Director Amanda Rositano.

weed1 I Team: Recreational Marijuana Sales Raise Safety Concerns

Employees weigh marijuana inside NETA in Northampton (WBZ-TV)

While NETA accepts cash, debit, and only credit cards with pins, federal restrictions around marijuana sales make it difficult, if not impossible, for banks to do business with dispensaries. That makes most pot shops cash rich targets.

FBI data shows crime in Denver shot up 44 percent after recreational pot sales became legal. Davis said Denver’s police chief briefed him on “burglaries or…cases where people were trying to access product or money.”

weed2 I Team: Recreational Marijuana Sales Raise Safety Concerns

Marijuana inside NETA in Northampton (WBZ-TV)

Several months ago, Colorado’s outgoing governor said it’s been such a problem, he wouldn’t rule out returning to a pot ban. In Aurora, a 24-year-old Marine veteran was gunned down while working as a guard at a weed dispensary. His widow, who’s now raising their kids alone, spoke to reporters through tears. “I never thought that this would happen to me,” she said.

“This is a big concern and it’s being addressed,” said Davis. While dispensaries were reluctant to show the I-Team their security secrets, Davis, shared exclusive details. “Moving the cash proceeds off the premises frequently,” is among the most important strategies. He said stores constantly move marijuana and money in unmarked secured vehicles.

Storage areas are off-limits to most. “They’re only accessible by designated staff,” said Rositano.

cameras1 I Team: Recreational Marijuana Sales Raise Safety Concerns

Security cameras inside NETA (WBZ-TV)

There’s also a state-of-the-art network of 24-hour cameras and panic buttons. “A signal goes out either to a contractor or to someone else in the facility that can call the police immediately,” said Davis.

“We know that there are going to be increases in impaired operators. We know there are going to be increases in youth use,” said Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper. As far as thefts, she says she doesn’t know what to expect. “Outside the parking lot, people who are carrying product and large amounts of cash going in, so we’re certainly aware that that’s a possibility.”

Davis says it’s a fact of life. “We have studied that. We’ve looked at what happened, and we have systems in place to deal with that…I believe that Massachusetts has learned from what Colorado went through, and we will not see the same kind of problems here.”

Christina Hager

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