Canadian Underwriter

Industry urged to marijuana-proof policy wording

November 17, 2017   by Jason Contant, Online Editor

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An insurance defence lawyer is encouraging the industry in Alberta to check their policy wordings after the province’s proposed new sanctions for cannabis-impaired and cannabis/alcohol-impaired driving offences.

“At this stage, the most immediate impact of the new legislation on property and casualty (p&c) insurance professionals will be in the need to conduct an immediate review of all policy wording in order to ensure that their insurance products appropriately cover the risk and claims that will come with the changes in the legislation,” Jennifer Huneault, a partner with Hughes Amys LLP, told Canadian Underwriter.

The impact of the changes to the Traffic Safety Act will be far-reaching, Huneault suggested, possibly affecting claims in the homeowners’, personal lines and commercial general liability contexts, as well as for product liability and directors and officers.

“Thorough review of policy wording now, and undertaking an analysis of the potential impact of marijuana legalization on available coverage, will better position the industry to be able to respond to claims that may arise post July 1, 2018,” she said. “A base understanding of marijuana production, strains, forms and chemical composition will go a long way towards being prepared to adjust claims in the property and casualty contexts.”

Related: How marijuana legalization could affect accident benefits

If passed, the changes would ensure that sanctions for drug-impaired driving would be aligned with those already in place for alcohol-impaired drivers. Among the proposed measures is “expanded provincial administrative sanctions for drivers with a blood drug concentration or blood drug/alcohol concentration over the new criminal limits proposed by the federal government.”

Huneault said there is a concern that the legalization of marijuana will bring with it a spike in impaired driving charges. “There remains considerable concern over the ability of law enforcement, at this stage, to be able to accurately assess the impairment levels of individuals.”

As the proposed federal legislation now reads, one can be found to be impaired when they have more than two nanograms of THC per millimeter of blood within two hours of driving.

“There is already considerable discussion in the legal community about whether there is a ‘one size fits all’ test for determining impairment as different chemicals and strains of marijuana, not to mention their method of ingestion, can yield a variance in results,” Huneault said. “I think we can expect there to be many initial challenges to impaired charges on the basis of the accuracy of testing.”