Tag Archives: marijuana

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.

More Options for Cannabis Insurance?

Two bills currently being considered in the U.S. Congress may expand the insurance options available to marijuana-related businesses (MRBs) that operate in states that have legalized marijuana for medical or recreational use. As discussed in the recent Insurance Thought Leadership article, “Marijuana Policy Gap: Insurers’ Uncertainty,” 33 states have legalized marijuana for medical use, with 10 of those states legalizing for recreational use. As a result, cannabis has become a multibillion-dollar industry in the U.S. and is expected to continue growing rapidly.

Nevertheless, pursuant to the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the cultivation, sale, distribution and possession of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The conflict between the CSA and the laws of states that have legalized marijuana in some capacity has resulted in uncertainty for those interested in entering the “legal” cannabis market.

The confusion created by conflicting approaches to marijuana legalization has implications for businesses in the cannabis industry and those that service the “legal” cannabis industry. So, the insurance options available to MRBs are fairly limited, as large, admitted insurers have taken a cautious approach and largely avoided entering this market.

Many of the insurance options available to MRBs are limited to smaller, specialized insurers and the excess and surplus lines market. Excess and surplus insurers tend to be more specialized and are “non-admitted,” meaning they are not licensed by the insurance department of the state in which they underwrite risk. This is significant because excess and surplus policyholders are not protected by state insurance guarantee funds, which offer protection to insureds in the event that their insurers become insolvent. In addition, because excess and surplus insurers are not licensed by the states in which they issue policies, they are not necessarily subject to the same regulations as admitted insurers, such as regulations governing policy forms or finances. Accordingly, MRBs may face higher premiums and less comprehensive coverage.

See also: Marijuana Policy Gap: Insurers’ Uncertainty  

As a result of the limited and, in some cases, cost-prohibitive coverage options available for MRBs, many remain underinsured or even completely uninsured. This can have disastrous consequences, as MRBs can face significant liability, just as any other business does. Moreover, the lack of coverage available to MRBs can leave consumers or other injured parties unprotected in the event of a claim, as it can be difficult or even impossible to collect against an uninsured or under-insured business.

To address the uncertainty and foster a more robust insurance market place for MRBs, on July 22, 2019, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) introduced a bill in the Senate titled the “Clarifying Law Around Insurance of Marijuana Act” or the “CLAIM Act” (S.2201). A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives just a few days later by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D- NY), with the same name (H.R. 4074). The stated purpose is to create a “safe harbor” from liability for insurers that underwrite policies for MRBs in states where medical or recreational use of marijuana is permitted, to encourage more insurers to enter the market. Both bills enjoy bipartisan support, being co-sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans, although their prospects for passage into law remain unclear.

The Senate version of the CLAIM Act would protect insurers that engage in the “business of insurance” with a “cannabis-related business” or service provider within a state that allows the cultivation, production, manufacture or sale of cannabis from being held liable under “any federal law” including regulations. The bill defines a “cannabis-related business” as a manufacturer or producer or any person or company that engages in “any business or organized activity that involves handling cannabis or cannabis products,” including cultivating, producing, manufacturing or selling cannabis or cannabis products. The bill would also prohibit any federal agency from penalizing or prohibiting an insurer from providing insurance to a “cannabis-related business.” The text of the House bill is substantially the same as the Senate bill.

See also: Legal Marijuana: An Insurance Perspective  

While these bills, if passed, could encourage more insurers to enter the cannabis market, potentially resulting in broader insurance options for MRBs, they may also clarify issues surrounding the enforceability of existing insurance policies that cover marijuana-related risks. After all, while some have argued that policies of insurance that cover marijuana-related risk are void as against public policy or otherwise invalid, even in states in which marijuana is legal, those arguments will become much harder to support if the federal government has carved out a “safe harbor” for insurers to underwrite cannabis risk in states in which cannabis is legal.

As such, both S. 2201 and H.R. 4074 have significant implications not just for the future of the cannabis insurance market, but also for policies of insurance that have already been issued to MRBs for cannabis-related risk. Therefore, it is important that anyone working in the cannabis industry, or servicing those who do, continue to follow these critical pieces of proposed legislation.

Marijuana Policy Gap: Insurers’ Uncertainty

The number of states that have legalized marijuana use continues to grow, as 33 states have already approved medical use, with 10 of those states having approved recreational use, as well. According to New Frontier Data, a leading cannabis market research and data analysis firm, the legal cannabis market is expected to grow to $25 billion by 2025. The industry reached $10.4 billion by 2018, with $10 billion of investments in North America, more than twice the amount of the last three years combined.​

Despite the trend toward legalization at the state level, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, thus creating the “Marijuana Policy Gap” as characterized by a March 2017 report of the Congressional Research Service, The Marijuana Policy Gap and the Path Forward. Under the Federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the cultivation, sale, distribution and possession of marijuana is illegal, irrespective of individual state constitutional provisions, statutes and regulations that legalize and regulate marijuana.

The Marijuana Policy Gap is creating uncertainty as businesses consider whether, and in what capacity, to enter the legal marijuana industry. As with any other industry, marijuana-related businesses (MRBs) require adequate insurance coverage to protect against a wide range of risks. However, the Marijuana Policy Gap is serving to limit insurance options available to MRBs to smaller specialized insurers and the excess and surplus lines market, as larger admitted carriers remain cautious with respect to the exposure associated with underwriting marijuana-related risk.

This uncertainty is due, in large part, to conflicting judicial opinions on the enforceability of insurance policies purporting to cover marijuana-related risk and the shifting approaches of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in its enforcement of the CSA. While principles of contract law generally prohibit courts from enforcing agreements that are illegal or against public policy, the current dichotomy between state and federal law creates an interesting and often confusing dynamic.

See also: Legal Marijuana: An Insurance Perspective  

This article will highlight this evolving dichotomy being created as courts attempt to balance the federal regulations deeming marijuana an illegal substance against those states that have determined that marijuana use provides certain benefits to their citizens.

Under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, federal law generally preempts conflicting state law. This principle was central to a decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii in 2012 in Tracy v. USAA Cas. Ins. Co., 2012 WL 928186, Civil No. 11-00487 LEK-KSC, March 16, 2012. In Tracy, the court held that USAA was not obligated to provide coverage under a homeowner’s policy for theft of an insured’s marijuana plants. In doing so, the court agreed with USAA’s argument that, although the insured’s possession and cultivation of marijuana for medical use was legal under Hawaii law, it was illegal under federal law and that federal law controlled based upon the Supremacy Clause. Thus, the court concluded that it was against public policy to force USAA to provide coverage for the illegal plants. The following year, the U.S. District Court of New Mexico in Hemphill v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., No. CIV 10-861 LH/RHS, at 4 (D.N.M. October 23. 2012), expressly adopted the court’s reasoning in Tracy, concluding that an insurer was not obligated to provide coverage for the use of medical marijuana. The court stated that it could not force an insurance company to cover medical expenses pertaining to use of a product that was illegal under federal law.

However, the evolving approach of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) toward lenient enforcement of the CSA in states that have legalized marijuana appears to be generating a shift in judicial philosophy on the enforceability of marijuana-related contracts and the coverage provided through insurance policies. In August 2013, a memorandum issued by then deputy-Attorney General James M. Cole stated that, as a matter of prosecutorial discretion, the DOJ would not prosecute federal marijuana offenses in states where marijuana was legal and where “strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems” were implemented to control the cultivation and sale of marijuana. The “Cole Memorandum” noted that effective state regulation would probably address federal concerns regarding the threats that marijuana posed to public safety, thus obviating the need for federal enforcement.

Against this backdrop, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Mann v. Gullickson, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 152125 (N.D. Ca. 2016) held, in a 2016 decision, that a stock purchase agreement for two companies that provided equipment and consulting services to the marijuana industry was enforceable. The court upheld the agreement notwithstanding the argument of the purchaser that the stock purchase agreement was void because it involved the sale of businesses engaged in activities that were illegal under federal law. The court further noted that, since Tracy was decided, the federal government had shifted its priorities from enforcement of the CSA in states that permit the use and cultivation of marijuana. The court observed that there had been an “erosion” of a clear and consistent federal policy toward CSA enforcement. As the federal government abandoned federal enforcement of the CSA prohibition on marijuana cultivation and sale by deferring to state enforcement, it apparently subordinated its interests in this arena to those of the states that have legalized marijuana.

In another 2016 case, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado revisited the issue of whether a policy of insurance covering marijuana-related risk was void as against public policy and federal law. The court in Green Earth Wellness Ctr., LLC v. Atain Specialty Ins. Co., 163 F. Supp. 3d 821, United States District Court, D. Colorado (February 17, 2016), rejecting that notion and finding that the policy of insurance was enforceable, noted that the federal government had taken a “nuanced (and perhaps even erratic)” approach to enforcement of the CSA in states where marijuana was legal and regulated. In distinguishing Tracy, the court, as in Mann, emphasized the “erosion of any clear and consistent federal public policy” in the area of CSA enforcement since that case was decided.

Courts continuing to look to DOJ policies and enforcement for guidance in crafting their approach regarding enforceability of marijuana-related contracts and insurance policies may continue to encounter confusion. In 2018, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded the Cole Memorandum, ostensibly signaling that more stringent enforcement of the CSA prohibition on marijuana would follow. However, Sessions resigned shortly thereafter, before any significant shift in DOJ prosecutorial practices. During his confirmation hearing, Attorney General William Barr pledged not to prosecute marijuana companies that comply with state laws. Nevertheless, Barr is not bound by that position, and he, or his eventual successors, have the prosecutorial discretion to engage in stronger enforcement of the CSA. If that happens, it could have a significant impact on insurers and their insureds, and more specifically, how courts analyze the enforceability of policies covering marijuana-related risk.

See also: In the Weeds on Marijuana and WC  

Clearly, the marijuana industry presents an exciting area of opportunities for both MRBs and insurers. Nevertheless, insurers considering entry into this marketplace to underwrite MRB-related risk should continue to monitor DOJ policies and their potential impact on the enforceability and coverages provided under marijuana-related insurance policies. The Marijuana Policy Gap will remain a source of confusion for businesses and insurers operating in this space. By remaining informed and educated on DOJ policies and judicial decisions, at both the federal and state level, those enterprises seeking to capitalize on the legal marijuana trend can more fully assess the potential risks and rewards, and will be able to arrive at the soundest business decisions.

Legal Marijuana: An Insurance Perspective

The past decade has been transformative for U.S. marijuana laws. Not since the era of Prohibition has the U.S. wrestled so broadly and intensely with the cultural, judicial and economic implications of legalizing a formerly illegal substance. And while the push to reform state marijuana laws continues sweeping the country with unambiguous fervor—a late-2018 Gallup poll showed 64% of Americans favor legalization—many questions and complications remain for those in the insurance industry.

Whether it’s being used as medicine or for recreational leisure, marijuana’s core problem for insurers is a policy landscape where myriad state laws now conflict with the fact that the federal government still considers marijuana illegal under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and classifies it as a Schedule I drug with “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S.” What’s more, the particulars of individual state laws are anything but uniform, and what’s considered legal in one state may be unlawful in another—even if they both allow for some degree of marijuana possession or consumption.

“This has all led to a real insurance quandary,” says Brenda Wells, director of the risk management and insurance program at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. “Do they cover it? Do they not cover it? And if they do cover it, how is it valued? These are just some of the questions they’re wrestling with at this stage. And it can get confusing.”

Marijuana and Homeowners Insurance

The question is simple: If a policyholder has some marijuana—or is growing it within state-mandated limits—and it’s damaged in a fire or stolen from the property, will a homeowners insurance policy cover the loss? The answer is not so straightforward.

Not only are insurers nervous about covering marijuana-related losses because of the legal disparities between state and federal policy, but most homeowner policies also contain explicit exclusionary language related to controlled substances, which means that a claim for lost, stolen or vandalized cannabis may be denied if the insurer believes the loss falls within the exclusion.

This can wreak havoc on the enforcement of contracts between an insurer and its clients, says attorney Richard Blau, an insurance expert and shareholder at GrayRobinson and head of the firm’s medical marijuana team. To emphasize his point, Blau cites a now-infamous 2012 Hawaii federal court ruling that said a homeowners insurance policy did not cover the theft of one woman’s marijuana plants grown for medicinal use.

The homeowner, Barbara Tracy, was allowed to grow and possess marijuana for her own medical use, and after 12 plants were stolen she submitted a claim to USAA for $45,600. USAA initially agreed to pay Tracy $8,801 for the claim, but Tracy sued, claiming the plants had a far greater value. USAA argued that, because marijuana is federally classified as an illegal Schedule I substance, it was under no obligation to cover the loss at all. The court ultimately agreed with USAA, stating that even though Hawaii law permits the use of marijuana for medicinal use it is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act and therefore not subject to homeowners insurance coverage.

“So on the one hand, you have a lot of insurance companies that operate in many different states, which means they arguably fall under federal jurisdiction. They’re worried their charters could be challenged under federal law,” Blau says. “But you also have what I think is the larger issue of judicial precedence that says insurance contracts are not enforceable under federal law. The good news is that… we now have an alternative line of cases where judges have ruled that as long as the claimant stayed within the scope of state law the insurance contract is valid and enforceable. But the split of judicial opinion needs to be reconciled.”

See also: In the Weeds on Marijuana and WC  

According to Wells, a lot of insurance companies “are reluctant to even talk” about whether they will cover marijuana-related homeowner losses, adding that “the industry in general hasn’t been handling this very well, but they need to figure out if they’re going to cover this. And if they are, they need to be prepared to pay claims like they would for anything else.”

Trying to find a catchall approach to the marijuana home insurance quandary produces a staggering variety of anecdotes, opinions and legal vagaries that fluctuate from state to state and from insurer to insurer. At the end of the day, whether a loss is covered will most likely be up to the individual insurer.

“Legal marijuana is one of a few Wild West issues facing property insurance right now. It’s vast, uncharted territory,” says Janet Tulsette, a Connecticut-based property insurance consultant who has recently specialized in the intersection of insurance and marijuana law. “Not only is it complicated…but it’s also so unprecedented, which means insurers are reluctant to be the first to make any bold moves one way or the other. They’re playing it relatively safe, but that makes things more complicated, not less.”

As of right now, some insurers are looking to individual state laws to establish a precedent for coverage. For instance, Allstate went on the record in 2014 saying it would cover the loss of marijuana in Colorado, where cannabis is legal for both medicinal and recreational use, adding that marijuana plants grown with a state license—and not exceeding the legal state limit—would be “limited to the perils and limits under additional protection for trees, shrubs, plants and lawns.”

Marijuana and auto insurance

On a consumer level, the intersection of legal marijuana and auto insurance has been fairly uncomplicated thus far, and that’s because the insurance ramifications for getting caught driving high are no different than those associated with driving under the influence of alcohol.

However, cannabis-related businesses are finding it extremely difficult to obtain commercial auto insurance policies that can adequately cover various auto-based aspects of their businesses, including the transport and delivery of cannabis-related products.

“A lot of the mainstream underwriters are pretty old school, and their vision of a driver in this industry is like a stoner pizza delivery guy,” says Jeff Kleid, owner of the California-based Elite Green Insurance Solutions, which provides a suite of insurance products to the cannabis and hemp industries. “They think that since these men and women are delivering marijuana they must also be smoking it while they’re driving. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a problem of perception as much as it is a problem of legal disparities.”

Kleid is quick to point out that insurers are also reluctant to write commercial auto policies because there’s a significant dearth of claims and risk data essential to underwriting.

“Insurance is a data-driven industry, and because it’s been illegal for so long there’s not enough data out there to make insurers comfortable working in this space,” Kleid says.

Marijuana and life insurance

As more and more Americans legally smoke cannabis for recreational and medicinal use, life insurance providers have had to grapple with its impact on the application and underwriting process. According to insurance specialist Michael Quinn, life insurance providers are wrestling with whether smoking marijuana carries the same health risks as smoking cigarettes.

“Regular smokers are charged tobacco rates, which are often four times higher than those for non-tobacco users,” Quinn says. “But some insurers are deciding to treat marijuana differently.”

For instance, Prudential tends to offer some of the lowest life insurance rates for marijuana users because they do not place them in the same risk pool as cigarette smokers. According to Prudential, a preferred non-tobacco rate is granted to users who smoke marijuana no more than three times per week, and insurance applicants must admit to marijuana use during the application process.

Meanwhile, providers like United of Omaha offer non-tobacco rates for those who smoke marijuana no more than three times per month, while John Hancock stipulates that it considers smoking marijuana “drug use” and will not offer applicants competitive rates.

“Based on your marijuana use alone, there is no telling what kind of rates you will be offered. You could technically get rates anywhere from substandard to preferred plus,” Quinn says. “However, a company like Prudential looks at the reason behind your marijuana use, and if it’s for medicinal reasons your rates will be based on the severity of your health condition, not the marijuana use alone.”

Many in the industry echo this distinction.

“For underwriting consideration, the first thing we must determine is whether the use is recreational, or if the proposed insured had been issued a prescription for medical use,” Pinney Insurance underwriter Mike Woods says. “If it’s for medicinal purposes, underwriting is going to be looking to the specific issue that the marijuana is being used to treat.”

Marijuana and business insurance

As anyone familiar with the legal cannabis industry will attest, there is a lot of money to be made from insuring cannabis-related businesses. According to Fortune, the U.S.’s legal marijuana industry grew to $10.4 billion in 2018 (it was $6.5 billion in 2016) and employed more than 250,000 people. What’s more, Fortune estimates that investors will “funnel more than $16 billion into the industry” in 2019.

The need for a comprehensive approach to insuring various aspects of the legal marijuana industry is becoming increasingly critical for everyone from growers to dispensary owners, and there are signs that the insurance industry is starting to pay attention.

To be sure, a handful of niche carriers and subsidiaries have begun filling the gap. For instance, Brown & Brown Insurance now offers marijuana business insurance through a new company division called Cannabis Insurance Professionals (CIP), which is based out of California and licensed in all 50 states. CIP garnered national headlines last year after the company paid out more than $1 million to one of its clients whose marijuana crop was destroyed in the 2018 Thomas wildfire.

“There are small private insurers trying to fill the gap, but not many. And most of these companies are non-admitted, coverage is limited and the price is expensive,” says Dawna Capps Evans, executive director of the National Cannabis Risk Management Association (NCRMA), a membership-based trade organization that provides risk management and insurance solutions for CRB owners and investors. According to Evans, the current insurance landscape leaves business owners with tough choices.

“They can either purchase very costly insurance, or they can go uninsured or under-insured—which leaves assets unprotected and exposes them from a personal liability perspective—or they have to piece a plan together from many different insurers, which can be extremely time consuming,” Evans says.

See also: Marijuana and Workers’ Comp  

According to attorney Meghana Shah—partner at Eversheds Sutherland LLP and co-founder of the firm’s cannabis industry team—the conflict between state and federal law once again rears its head, potentially exposing marijuana businesses and their ancillary service providers (such as insurers) to federal criminal liability.

“Business owners and insurers alike remain concerned about the risks associated with doing business in the cannabis industry,” Shah says. “For cannabis-related businesses, the inability to secure insurance renders them unable to protect themselves against common business risks, some of which have the potential to irreversibly cripple their business.”

Adjacent to this concern is the limited access that CRBs have to the banking system. Consider, for instance, that in 2014 Colorado’s Fourth Corner Credit Union was chartered to serve the “unique financial needs” of cannabis-related businesses. But despite operating within the boundaries of Colorado’s legalized marijuana framework, the application for a master account from the U.S. Federal Reserve System was denied because of marijuana’s continued illegality at the federal level. This is just one example of how the disparity between state and federal law has forced the legal cannabis industry to operate within a cash-intensive “gray market,” bringing with it all manner of concerns, including theft, the risks of currency transportation, money laundering and cash hoarding.

“The lack of banking options is a unique and significant risk for the cannabis industry right now because so much of this economy is being fueled by large, cash-based operations, and that leads to significant exposure,” Evans says. “Banking and financial institutions play a critical role in our economy, and most businesses take for granted the way they use these institutions in a secure way. Without access to safe banking in the cannabis industry, insurers are going to be very reluctant to get on board.”

In an effort to address this particular problem, the House Financial Services Committee voted 45-15 in March to advance the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which aims to protect banks and other financial institutions from federal prosecution when working with cannabis-related businesses operating in compliance with state laws. What’s more, the act would prohibit federal banking regulators from sanctioning financial institutions that work with CRBs and would also protect ancillary businesses—like insurance companies—from being charged with money laundering or related financial crimes.

And while the SAFE Banking Act still faces an uphill battle, many in the industry are extremely optimistic about what it foreshadows.

“The industry is only going to grow, and the losses associated with legal marijuana are only going to increase,” Tulsette says. “The insurance industry really needs to come up with comprehensive and substantive solutions. They can only keep their heads in the sand for so long.”

7 Safety Trends for Today’s Workplace

Monumental changes in how and where work is performed create new risk and safety challenges. This session at the RIMS 2019 Annual Conference & Exhibition examined emerging workplace risks and effective safety strategies to address them.

Speakers included:

  • Larry Pearlman, senior vice Ppesident, workforce strategies practice, Marsh
  • Timothy Martin, global health and safety manager, Steelcase

1. Wearables

Ergonomics are a problem across many industries, especially with an aging workforce. Wearable devices measure body stress so that, with injuries, we can determine what happened, how it happened, when it happened and if it will happen again. Different technology like exoskeleton suits are available to help with strenuous activities, which can help retain your aging employees longer than otherwise expected.

2. Robotics

Industries have evolved from using barrier robots (kept away from employees), to collaborative robots (good for repetitive tasks but extremely complicated to program) to now using autonomous robots. Autonomous robots are simple to program in an extremely short time, so virtually any employee can control them with little effort.

See also: Top OSHA Trends Facing Employers  

3. Workplace Violence

Employers are still not being proactive enough on workplace violence, despite the increasing frequency. Training does not extend to drills, and mental health problems are going unaddressed. Employers need to shift from reactive policies to predictive and prescriptive policies. Technology has evolved to provide electronic robots that can patrol your workplace, supported by a control center that can interact with employees in real time.

4. Workplace Wellbeing

Studies show that employees are stressed and in poor health. Employee wellbeing is a major problem, and employers need to implement support for total wellbeing – physical, emotional, financial, social. There is a certain way to inspire wellbeing that does not seem like you are telling employees what they should be doing, which is ineffective. There are more-effective programs available that will tailor programs to employee preferences.

5. Temporary Workers

Temp workers often do not know proper safety basics and company policies related to safety. Employers can reduce the risks related to temporary workers through hiring practices, screening exercises, onboarding and continuous training. If you use a staffing agency, you can partner with it so that it aligns with your safety philosophy. Be transparent and try to match the type of work to the worker based on physical job requirements.

6. Changing Demographics

Training methods must adapt to address the changing nature of the workplace. A blended learning approach is now necessary for different generations. Technology is addressing safety learning preferences for the younger, tech-savvy generations. Micro-learning is available to address bite-size info in real time. Geofencing can monitor and message employees at decision points to ensure rules, compliance and hazard awareness. Also, virtual reality is available to simulate situations to manage the rare, impossible, expensive and risky.

See also: Connected Buildings and Workplace Safety  

7. Marijuana

Marijuana use continues to increase as legalization spreads across the U.S. There is no accurate impairment measurement available, so it is very difficult to create employment policies and testing. It may not make sense to test any more but, rather, enhance your fitness-for-duty policies. There is a new technology that will scan an employee’s eye and tell you if he or she is fit for duty. This is a measure that you can put at the time clock to help measure impairment before the employee begins his or her shift.