Tag Archives: cbd

Key Questions for Vaping Businesses

As vaping becomes increasingly popular across the U.S., more businesses are manufacturing, distributing and selling vaping products, including ones containing or intended for use with CBD or THC. The proliferation of vaping products is likely to lead, before long, to an increase in vaping-related litigation.

As such, vaping-related businesses will want to make sure – before litigation ever occurs – that they have the right insurance in place to respond. Given the variety of terms, conditions and particularly exclusions in commercial general liability (CGL) and product liability insurance policies, businesses cannot simply assume that they have the necessary coverage.

In determining whether it has the needed coverage, a vaping-related business will want to take into account a number of considerations, including:

  • Does its CGL insurance cover product-related claims, or it is necessary to obtain and maintain separate product liability insurance? Some CGL policies may specifically exclude coverage for “Products-Completed Operations.” As a result, such policies may not provide coverage if a consumer is injured by, for example, an exploding vape pen.
  • Is its CGL or product liability insurance written on a claims-made basis, or does it provide occurrence-based coverage? Basically, a claims-made insurance policy provides coverage for a claim made during the policy period, whereas an occurrence-based policy provides coverage for an accident that happens during the policy period (no matter when the claim is ultimately made). Therefore, occurrence-based coverage is generally more valuable to the policyholder, especially when facing risk of long-tail-exposure claims (such as many toxic-tort claims). However, at least for cannabis-related companies, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to purchase an insurance policy covering product claims that is written on an occurrence basis.
  • Does its CGL policy or its product liability policy specifically exclude coverage for vaping-related products or vaping-related injuries? There are different formulations of such exclusions being used by insurers today. For example, at least one insurer includes a complete exclusion for vaping equipment and components, which precludes coverage for “any claim arising out of the use, handling or ownership of vaporizing equipment or any part of the accessories attached or used with the vaporizing equipment including pens, cartridges, mouth pieces, batteries, chargers, coils and any miscellaneous products used with, or attached to, vaporizing equipment.” Another insurer only excludes coverage for claims “resulting from the use, sale or distribution of batteries manufactured by, or which are represented, marketed and/or sold as having been manufactured by” certain specified companies.
  • Do its CGL or product liability policies include other exclusions that may arguably defeat coverage for a vaping-related claim? Such exclusions may include, (i) a health hazard exclusion, (2) a marijuana/cannabis products exclusion and (iii) a carcinogen exclusion.

The insurance considerations only increase if the vaping products at issue include, or are intended for use with, THC (i.e., the chief psychoactive component in marijuana, which remains a Schedule I controlled substance in the U.S.) or even CBD. Because marijuana remains illegal in the U.S., there are still many insurance companies that will not write coverage for a cannabis-related business or agree to cover cannabis-related losses. There are also any number of insurance policy terms, conditions, or exclusions that arguably could defeat coverage for a THC/cannabis-vaping-related claim. As such, as companies that already have CGL or product liability insurance move into the THC vaping space, they should double-check with their insurer(s) and review their policy(ies) to make sure they still would have coverage for any claims arising out of THC vaping. They cannot just expect that the policies they historically have had will cover them in this new line of business.

See also: Legal Marijuana: An Insurance Perspective  

Finally, CBD-related vaping products may raise many of the same concerns. Although the 2018 federal farm bill opened the door for the legal production and sale of hemp and hemp-derived CBD in the U.S., it did not amend the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act or otherwise legalize the sale of CBD for oral consumption. Accordingly, insurance policy provisions that require compliance with all applicable laws or exclude coverage for illegal acts or substances may arguably still bar coverage for CBD-vaping-related claims.

While many of these considerations will apply to many businesses in the vaping industry, each business is also likely to have its own unique insurance needs and issues, and each business should carefully review its specific coverages carefully.

In the Weeds on Marijuana and WC

It’s a topic that gets much buzz – how will the cloud of legislation surrounding recreational and medical marijuana use affect businesses, specifically when it comes to compensability for workers’ compensation? I am sure you have all caught up on news about additional states voting to legalize marijuana for medical use and adult recreational use during the November 2016 election. Let’s take a look at those changes, as well as what action they may prompt to shake up the state and federal status quo.

After receiving certified results of a state recount, 2016 closed with Maine Gov. Paul LePage issuing a proclamation of the Referendum Question 1 vote that allows recreational use of marijuana by those at least 21 years of age. Maine joins Alaska, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and the District of Columbia in voting to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use. Arizona was the only state where voters rejected a legalization measure during the November election.

With the passage of ballot initiatives in Arkansas, Florida and North Dakota, medical marijuana is now legal in 28 states and the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.

An additional 17 states have laws that only allow the use of “low THC, high cannabidiol (CBD)” products for specified medical conditions. The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a summary of those state laws here.

Stickiness in the states

Despite the increase in the number of states that have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana, the impact on workers’ compensation claims was limited until about three years ago.

In 2014, New Mexico became the first state to have a state appellate court order a workers’ compensation insurance carrier to provide reimbursement to an injured worker for medical marijuana. The New Mexico Workers’ Compensation Administration began requiring employers and insurers to reimburse injured workers when the state’s healthcare provider fee schedule took effect Jan. 1, 2016. The trend continues.

In two recent decisions, the Appellate Division of the Maine Workers’ Compensation Board affirmed two different administrative law judge (ALJ) awards reimbursing workers for their medical marijuana expenses, Bourgoin v. Twin Rivers Paper Co. and Noll v. Lepage Bakeries.

See also: Marijuana and Workers’ Comp  

On Dec. 15, 2016, an administrative law judge in New Jersey issued an order in Watson v. 84 Lumber requiring reimbursement of an injured worker for medical marijuana payment. It should be noted that this is a division level case, so this decision is not binding on other New Jersey courts. The case is not being appealed.

It is noteworthy that in each of the above cases:

  • Marijuana was recommended by physicians only after other treatment regimens for chronic pain were attempted without success, and
  • These judges were not persuaded by the fact that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

Federal haze

While there has been some activity on the federal side over the past year, it has not changed the fact that marijuana, even for medicinal use, violates federal law.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law because it is listed under Schedule I in the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), along with other drugs such as heroin. Schedule I substances are illegal to distribute, prescribe, purchase or use outside of medical research due to “a high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S.” As a result of this status, physicians recommend the use of marijuana instead of prescribing it.

On July 19, 2016, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) denied two petitions to reclassify marijuana, concluding that it continues to meet the criteria for control under Schedule I because:

  • Marijuana has a high potential for abuse. This is based on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) evaluation and additional data gathered by DEA.
  • Marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S. Using an established five-part test, it was determined that marijuana has no “currently accepted medical use” because, as detailed in HHS evaluation, the drug’s chemistry is not known and reproducible; there are no adequate safety studies; there are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving its effectiveness; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts; and the scientific evidence is not widely available.
  • Marijuana lacks accepted safety for use under medical supervision. At present, there are no U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved marijuana products, nor is marijuana under a New Drug Application (NDA) evaluation at the FDA for any indication.

Interestingly, the DEA noted that marijuana could not be placed in a schedule less restrictive than Schedule II in view of U.S. obligations under international drug control treaties.

Although marijuana is not being reclassified at this time, on Aug. 11, 2016 the DEA announced a policy change meant to increase research by expanding the number of DEA-registered facilities allowed to grow and distribute marijuana for FDA-authorized research purposes.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) marijuana enforcement policy is to allow states to create their own “strong, state-based enforcement efforts,” but DOJ reserves its right to challenge the states’ legalization laws at any time necessary.

Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) of 2016 that in Section 542 restricts federal law enforcement activity in states that allow medical marijuana cultivation, distribution and use. Now that voters in half of the states have voted for legalization of medical marijuana, will Congress take action to change its scheduling?

The new administration may change the broad leeway states have been given to regulate marijuana usage and sales.

  • President Trump has expressed varying views regarding medical and recreational marijuana over the years.
  • Attorney General nominee Sen. Jeff Sessions, a former federal prosecutor, has expressed opposition to medical and recreational marijuana.
  • Tom Price, a physician and nominee for Health and Human Services Secretary, has also been a vocal opponent of legalization.

If the conflict between federal and state law is not resolved politically, the U.S. Supreme Court may have the last word. The high court last weighed in on marijuana in 2005. In an unsigned opinion issued March 2016, the high court refused to hear a request from Nebraska and Oklahoma to declare Colorado’s legalization of marijuana unconstitutional because it is against federal law and therefore violates the Constitution’s supremacy clause, which states federal law trumps state laws. Justices Alito and Thomas dissented. Will President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court make a difference?

See also: How to Think About Marijuana and Work  

Yes, the future of federal marijuana policy and enforcement remains hazy. What is clear is that employers contending with this complex and rapidly changing issue must understand the laws and relevant legal decisions pertaining to marijuana in each of the states where their business operates.

In such an uncertain time, we will continue to provide updates and perspective. We recommend seeking legal assistance to develop a sound company policy addressing the use and reimbursement of medical marijuana for on-the-job injuries.