Produced by: NCIA’s Risk Management & Insurance Committee
Contributing Authors: Stephanie Bozzuto, Cannabis Connect Insurance, Acrisure Partner | Merril Gilbert, Trace Trust | Shay Aaron Gilmore, The Law Office of Shay Aaron Gilmore | Matthew Johnson, AssuredPartners
Navigating the labyrinth of insurance coverage can be daunting for any business owner, especially within the emerging cannabis industry. Questions like “What coverage do I need?” and “How do I ensure my policy covers my exposures?” are common and crucial. The National Cannabis Industry Association’s Risk Management & Insurance Committee is here to guide cannabis business operators in protecting both personal and business assets.
Below are ten key insights and considerations to guide you when purchasing your next insurance policy. Whether you have a policy in place or are exploring multiple policies, it’s crucial to ensure they align with your intended coverage.
Understanding Policy Forms, Endorsements, and Exclusions
Policy forms, endorsements, and exclusions are pivotal during a claim. For instance, some policies sold to cannabis companies in the US have outright ‘cannabis business exclusions’. It’s crucial to read and understand these documents to avoid jeopardizing your business.
Compliance with Protective Safeguards
To ensure theft coverage response in a loss, understand and comply with the protective safeguards on your property insurance policy. For example, non-compliance with a Central Station Alarm Warranty can exclude coverage after a robbery.
Landlord Insurance Requirements
Understand the insurance coverage required by your landlord before signing any contract. If a triple net lease is required, you, as the lessee, will need to insure not only your business but also the building, which can be costly.
Local Insurance Requirements
Each city, state, and county permitting cannabis will have its own insurance requirements, often including general liability, product liability, commercial auto insurance, and workers’ compensation.
Some states have created specific requirements not present in other states (looking at you, Michigan!). Consult with an attorney to fully understand and meet these requirements.
Maintain and update your facilities, especially if they are older than 20 years, to avoid limited property coverage and being forced to buy an “actual cash value” policy versus “replacement cost.” Updates to your HVAC, plumbing, roofing, and electrical systems are well worth the investment.
High-Risk Area Considerations
If your facility is in a high brush area, be prepared for limited property insurance options and a list of exclusions due to tighter wildfire insurance availability. Your insurer may offer expanded coverage if you’re willing to invest in wildfire defense systems.
Evaluating Insurance Companies
Know the financial strength of your insurance company before purchasing. Consider whether the company is admitted or non-admitted and research their reputation and claims experience.
Inquire about the carrier’s claims handling experience, conditions of coverage, and the duration it takes to receive a payout from a covered loss. If your broker doesn’t have claims experience with a given carrier, feel free to ask someone on the NCIA’s Risk Management & Insurance Committee.
Legal Concepts and Types of Insurance
Understand the legal concepts involved in property and liability insurance and familiarize yourself with the different types of property insurance policies available on the market. For instance – are you purchasing an admitted or a non-admitted insurance policy? Are you on an ‘all risk’ or a ‘named perils’ coverage form?
Grasping Liability Insurance Distinctions
Liability insurance is crucial, acting as “third-party” coverage, contrasting with “first-party” coverage like property insurance, which protects against damage to one’s own assets.
- Duty to Defend vs. Duty to Indemnify
- Understanding the difference between the duty to defend and the duty to indemnify is vital. The former is broader, obligating the insurer to defend the insured in lawsuits, even if allegations are baseless. The latter only kicks in if the insured is found legally liable for damages.
- Defense Inside/Outside the Limits
- One should also inquire about defense inside versus defense outside the limits of a liability policy. A policy with ‘defense outside’ considers all legal costs separate from the total liability coverage, while legal fees will erode the total liability limit for a ‘defense inside’ policy.
- Insurable Interest
- An insured must have a direct financial interest in the preservation of the property and be exposed to monetary loss as an immediate and proximate result of its destruction. The interest must not be contingent or expectant. Interest in anything not founded on an actual right to the property is uninsurable.
- Scope and Importance in Cannabis Industry
- The scope of liability insurance, covering legal costs and payouts, is essential, especially in the cannabis industry, where legal landscapes and associated risks are continuously evolving. Adequate coverage is paramount to mitigate potential financial losses due to unique legal challenges and risks, such as product liability claims.
The world of business insurance, especially in the cannabis sector, can be quite complex. However, with the insights provided here, you can navigate your policy purchasing process with confidence and ensure your business is fortified against potential risks. By understanding policy forms, adhering to safeguards, and adapting to local regulations, you can lay a resilient foundation for your business’s growth and success.
The proactive approach advocated by the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Risk Management committee emphasizes the importance of informed decision-making. By evaluating an insurer’s claims experience, comprehending legal nuances, and staying attuned to industry developments, you can empower your business with robust protection, ensuring a resilient foundation for growth and success.