Colorado Government

Bill Would Require Marijuana Business Owners to Meet Liability Insurance Threshold

Jacqueline Collins
A new bill in the Colorado Legislature would require marijuana business owners to prove they have enough insurance coverage to handle $100,000 in injury claims connected to dispensary products.

Introduced by Senator Robert Rodriguez on January 12, Senate Bill 23-045 calls for proof of at least $100,000 in coverage for each marijuana license owned, renewed or applied for, in case of claims regarding "bodily injury to lawful users resulting from the manufacture, distribution, transportation or sale of adulterated marijuana or adulterated marijuana-infused products."

According to the measure's language, business owners don't have to cover bodily injuries that are considered expected long-term consequences or intended effects from smoking or using marijuana, and the term "adulterated" only includes marijuana that contains unintended substances or matter other than marijuana "that causes an adverse reaction."

Consumer lawsuits over marijuana are rare, but they have been filed in Colorado before, after state authorities recalled commercial pot with levels of banned pesticides, which would be considered a form of adulterated marijuana under SB 045. In Colorado, edibles have also been tied to potential injury, with the state Marijuana Enforcement Division flagging edibles made with corydalis, an herbal extract, over concerns of liver harm.

As the bill is currently written, social equity marijuana applicants and business owners would also have to meet the financial responsibility requirements. Created in 2020 by lawmakers to spur industry involvement in communities impacted by the drug war, Colorado's marijuana social equity program is largely made up of entrepreneurs who struggle to attain financial backing in a federally illegal industry.

If "at any time" a marijuana business owner fails to maintain proof of financial responsibility, the MED would immediately suspend the business owner's license until such proof is provided, the bill notes.

According to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, there are no lobbying organizations currently supporting SB 045, but seven marijuana businesses and trade groups are officially listed as "monitoring" the bill.

Marijuana industry organizations were surprised to see the bill, and none of the five trade groups that Westword contacted were ready to comment. However, pot lobby representatives say they expect a stakeholder meeting with Rodriguez soon, and anticipate that the measure will be amended or pulled altogether. Rodriguez didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.

If the bill moves on, a prolonged debate could occur over requiring liability insurance for Colorado marijuana businesses, still a relatively novel concept in legal marijuana. Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida and Illinois have various financial responsibility qualifications for marijuana business owners, according to online insurance marketplace Insurion, while Massachusetts, Michigan and Washington require marijuana business owners to have liability coverage.

Colorado has seen financial requirements at the local level before. When Aurora started accepting recreational dispensary applications in 2013, any potential owners had to prove they had been residents of Colorado for at least two years and had $400,000 in liquid assets.

There is no date scheduled yet for SB 045's first hearing with the Senate Business, Labor & Technology Committee
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for westword.com.
Contact: Thomas Mitchell

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