Column: Workers' Comp

Risk and the Cannabis Clash

By: | April 4, 2016

Roberto Ceniceros is a retired senior editor of Risk & Insurance® and the former chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. Read more of his columns and features.

Risk management has sprouted a touch of cannabis-induced dissociative identity disorder — what used to be known as multiple personalities.

I’m no psychiatrist, but it doesn’t take a license to diagnose that a split in risk management personas exists when it comes to marijuana, each persona hoping their view of the world will eventually achieve dominance.


By far the dominant persona has risk managers and insurers nervous over weed’s increased legalization. Worker safety and employee liability stoke their angst, atop a general unease as the landscape shifts on prohibitions we have labored under until recently.

This personality fervently hopes a newly elected conservative president changes course from the current policy of ignoring enforcement of federal laws prohibiting marijuana.

You can sense the anxiety spread by blog posts contemplating topics like New Mexico’s mandate forcing workers’ comp claims payers to fund claimants’ dope consumption.

Insurance conferences offer up experts with advice on managing the workplace challenges created by marijuana’s increased accessibility.

Then there is a younger, emerging risk management personality. It’s the one looking to inhale revenue derived from selling insurance and loss prevention services to the weed industry. It’s fueled by entrepreneurial brokers with an enhanced sense that the new green revolution provides fertile ground for premium growth.

You can sense the anxiety spread by blog posts contemplating topics like New Mexico’s mandate forcing workers’ comp claims payers to fund claimants’ dope consumption.

The latter persona wants to help keep the party going, supplying medical-marijuana dispensaries, retail pot shops and grow operations with insurance products … including workers’ compensation coverage.

It first emerged at least six years ago when producers started supplying legal marijuana operations with London-market coverages for typical P&C risks.

This self-indulgent insurance personality also launched new, creative products for emerging risks. Raid coverage, for example, purports to insure against authorities busting marijuana businesses.

London markets tightened up cannabis-industry coverage availability. But that hasn’t slowed this insurance personality on display at cannabis conventions where brokers, alongside other vendors supporting the weed industry, offer their products and expertise. At these conferences there is talk that while weed legalization might not spread quickly, it will spread.


Obviously, I make the comparison to multiple personality disorder in jest. The two insurance viewpoints don’t exactly resemble conflicting voices vying against each other for dominance inside someone’s head. But they are different lenses through which to view an unfolding risk.

Which notion will dominate, if either, isn’t settled. But growing acceptance of marijuana and its increased availability ensures the issue will require risk management attention far into the future. &

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