Cannabis is now fully legal in ten states plus the District of Columbia, and medical marijuana is legal in 23 states. Despite growing acceptance among states, cannabis remains illegal federally under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 as a Schedule 1 substance, which has made oversight and regulation of the industry decentralized and in some instances non-existent. The psychoactive effects of cannabis, coupled with limited regulation, imposes increased risk of product liability claims. To mitigate this risk, industry members should take steps to self-regulate.
New Jersey’s greatest contribution to American rock ’n’ roll, Bruce Springsteen, was nearly relegated to obscurity by a marijuana bust involving his bandmates. Rock legend has it that one of The Boss’ early bands, the Castilles, was forced to break up when some of its members were caught with cannabis in Freehold in 1967. While it would have been unthinkable back then, New Jersey is now on the precipice of marijuana legalization. Gov. Phil Murphy’s campaign platform included a commitment to legalizing recreational use, and three cannabis-related bills have passed through New Jersey Senate and Assembly committees and await the legislature’s final vote, which could happen this month. Legalization would transform New Jersey’s economy, and may also be a litmus test for nearby New York. Looking ahead, business owners, entrepreneurs and investors who are contemplating entry into the cannabis space, when and if legalization occurs, would do well to educate themselves about the potential insurability of various exposures facing the industry.
Like Bob Dylan, marijuana has gone from symbol of 1960s counter-culture to mainstream appeal. It is telling that Lloyd’s of London (which reportedly insures Mr. Dylan’s vocal chords) has also recently announced that that it will underwrite cannabis-related insurance in Canada, issuing policies to businesses who legally produce, distribute and sell marijuana. In the United States, an increasing number of states have legalized marijuana for medicinal and recreational uses, and others will be voting on the issue in the near future (as Michigan will this November). Federal illegality—whose days may be numbered—has become less and less of an obstacle to obtaining coverage “from seed to sale” for businesses in the legal cannabis space. This is demonstrated by two recent developments since our previous blog post on insurance for the marijuana industry.