I’m going to get a little wonky here, bear with me.
The standard homeowners insurance policy only explicitly mentions the word “marijuana” once: to exclude it from liability coverage. Basically, the policy says that the insurer won’t pay for any bodily injuries or property damage to another person arising out of any controlled substance, including marijuana.
But there’s an interesting wrinkle to this. The exclusion also states the following: “However, this exclusion does not apply to the legitimate use of prescription drugs by a person following the orders of a licensed physician.”
“Wait,” you say. “Isn’t there a conflict here? Wouldn’t the policy cover damages from medical marijuana, since it’s a prescription drug?”
Sorry to rain on your parade, but the answer is no.
All together now: Medical marijuana is not a prescription drug
You can be forgiven for thinking that medical marijuana is a prescription drug. After all, that’s how it’s often described by news outlets the world over: Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, etc.
But medical marijuana is not a prescription drug under any state’s current medical marijuana program.
Physicians don’t “prescribe” marijuana like they do painkillers and other drugs. Rather, physicians will “certify,” “recommend,” or “authorize” (the exact wording depends on the state) that a patient qualifies under a state program to purchase marijuana products. Often this qualification depends on whether a patient suffers from any of a list of “qualifying conditions” – which vary by state.
With a “recommendation” in hand, the patient can then purchase medical marijuana products from a dispensary, subject to various state-specific limitations (like how much marijuana they can buy in any given month).
“Prescription”, on the other hand, has a specific meaning. The Kansas City Medical Society notes that medical drugs are supported by years of study that can provide guidelines for dosages and plans of care. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates these drugs. Patients with a prescription receive these drugs from a certified pharmacist.
Not so with marijuana. Though some states do require physician dosage recommendations, these are not well understood. The FDA has “not approved marijuana as a safe and effective drug for any indication.” Medical marijuana dispensaries are not pharmacies. They don’t employ pharmacists. The people selling the marijuana are basically like knowledgeable sommeliers at a fancy liquor store.
As we saw above, this distinction has insurance implications. As another example, consider workers’ compensation insurance: do these policies reimburse for an injured worker’s medical marijuana? The answer is far more complicated than you’d think.
One more time: medical marijuana is not a prescription drug.