Purple Haze?

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Will the rapid approvals and anticipated increase in the use of marijuana have an impact in your dealership? Is it okay for employees to puff a joint on coffee break? Or is it all setting up potential problems for dealers?

If you’re in one of 33 states (plus Guam, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia) that have already legalized some form of medical marijuana, it’s something to be considered. Even more, 10 states and DC are apparently set on adopting a new state color – Purple Haze - by allowing recreational marijuana. It certainly raises some interesting questions and unknowns for employers--and their insurance companies.

So says Patricia L. Harman, editor-in-chief of Claims magazine and a contributing editor writing about this subject for PropertyCasualty360.com. Just trying to estimate growth projections of use illustrates how much is unknown about the future of legalized marijuana. But, Harman argues, it’s going to be big.

Some market research reports predict the legal hemp market will grow to $25 billion by 2025. Others see spending on cannibis reaching $57 billion worldwide inside the next 8 years. The truth is that nobody really knows.

However, there’s one prediction most agree on: That the greatest growth will clearly be in the area of recreational use, which is anticipated to expand by 67% by 2025. That just could replace the coffee break in favor of a Colorado cocktail!

Identifying the real impact of legalization for a marine dealer, or any business for that matter, isn’t easy. Harman says serious workplace questions will come into play, including workplace liabilities; auto and service vehicle risks; workers’ compensation claims; owners’ and officers’ liability; as well as influences by some employees on others; and general workplace conditions.

The more unsettling news is that, so far, politicians and regulators haven’t connected the dots very well.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, for example, classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug, making its use or sale illegal at the federal level. But the legalization of the sale and use of marijuana on state levels has resulted in myriad rules and regulations that range from state to state. Insurance companies are perplexed about their risks and coverages, says Harman.

Let’s take workers’ compensation as an example. No easy answer here because multiple issues surround workers’ comp. Like: Should insurers pay for medical marijuana? If yes, how long should they continue to cover related expenses? How does an insurer determine efficacy for an injured worker? If an employer has a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs, how does the medical use of marijuana affect that policy? What are the legal repercussions for terminating an employee who tests positive for marijuana?

Harman points out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that frequent use of marijuana can lead to addiction (approximately 1 in 10 people), but she says the risks may vary depending on how it is used. Smoking can produce an almost immediate “high.” Edibles, on the other hand, take longer to produce their effect, which can lead to consuming more marijuana to make the impact come sooner. Marijuana affects brain development, so individuals who begin using it in their teens may see an impact on learning functions, attention and memory as their brains mature.

Moreover, there does seem to be increasing evidence that individuals who start using marijuana in their youth develop memory issues, and can damage their bronchial passages and lungs. Regular marijuana use can also increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes in individuals of all ages, according to research by the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Overall, there are more questions than answers about the impacts and liabilities that boat dealers and their employees may face as marijuana becomes widely available. Deciding on company policies concerning employee use and looking at possible liabilities for the dealership overall may be a good place to start. Obviously, discussing coverages with your insurance agent should be high on the list.

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