Last week, in an exciting moment, the U.S. House of Representatives, voted 321 to 103 in favor of H.R.1595, the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act of 2019 (“SAFE Banking Act”). If enacted into law, the SAFE Banking Act, would provide financial institutions, including insurers, a safe harbor to do business with “cannabis-related legitimate businesses” in the United States. In particular, the act would protect insurers, independent agents, and brokers from criminal and civil liability when offering insurance coverage to state-legalized cannabis businesses. The SAFE Banking Act would grant the cannabis business community access to many of the financial services most companies take for granted, like electronic payment processing, employer-sponsored 401(k) accounts and small business loans.

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The Sixth Circuit recently upheld dismissal of KVG Properties, Inc.’s claims under a first-party property policy arising from damage to KVG’s office spaces due to tenants’ use of cannabis growing operations. We have been tracking the KVG case closely and previously reported on KVG’s initial appeal and Westfield’s retort on why the district court correctly dismissed the claims. Although there was no coverage for KVG under the particular facts of this case, the Sixth Circuit’s decision raises several important insurance issues for policyholders to consider and previews likely battlegrounds for future cannabis coverage disputes, many of which are precipitated by the variances in federal and state cannabis law.

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The California Department of Insurance recently approved three new insurance carriers to provide coverage for the emerging cannabis industry. Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced last week that The North River Insurance Company, United States Fire Insurance Company, and White Pine Insurance Company will all begin offering surety bonds for cannabis businesses by the end of the month.

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Last month, we reported on the ongoing insurance coverage dispute between commercial landlord KVP Properties, Inc. and its property insurer, Westfield Insurance Company. The dispute arises from an October 2015 DEA raid on KVG-owned rental units in Novi, Michigan, which uncovered damage to the units related to the tenants’ marijuana growing operations. The arguments raised by KVG on appeal highlight a number of important marijuana-related coverage issues, which Westfield has now addressed in opposition.

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Commercial landlord KVG Properties Inc. has appealed a district court summary judgment ruling dismissing its claims under a first-party property policy issued by Westfield Insurance Company, arguing that the district court improperly rejected its claim because KVG’s tenants’ use of the property for marijuana growing operations was illegal under federal law. The appeal underscores the growing divide between state and federal marijuana laws and raises several important insurance coverage issues that will likely continue in the future.

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Last week, Golden Bear Insurance Company became the first admitted insurer approved by the California Department of Insurance to provide insurance coverage for marijuana companies. Golden Bear will now begin offering first- and third-party insurance coverage specifically targeting marijuana companies in the state.

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