What's a medical marijuana supplier to do when a worker is injured? Or when a burglar makes off with the pot?
Increasingly, the answer is: Call the insurance company.
Insurance firms are turning to one of the state's few growth industries, medical marijuana dispensaries (MMDs for short), as a new source of business.
"It's not often that you get to see the dawn of a new industry, but that's what we're seeing. We're seeing the birth of an industry providing customized insurance services to MMDs," said Mike Aberle, a commercial insurance agent with Rancho Cordova-based Statewide Insurance Services and head of its MMD unit.
Legal marijuana dispensaries may be a recent phenomenon, but their climate-control systems are as prone to breakdowns as any grocery store's freezers, and their product is as much a target for thieves as any gold dealer's.
The door for dispensaries and commercial insurers opened in 1996, when California voters approved Proposition 215, which allows physicians to recommend cannabis for cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraines or "any other illness for which marijuana provides relief."
But the number of dispensaries skyrocketed this year when the Obama administration said it would not arrest marijuana growers and sellers who abide by state laws. Previously, federal officials had actively prosecuted them.
From January to June the number of Sacramento marijuana dispensaries doubled to around 30.
December 7, 2009