March 27, 2023

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New York State Insurance Fund stepped right into the cannabis space as the state began passing out licenses in August to fill what would have likely been a large gap.

New York’s adult-use cannabis market is forecast to reach more than $4.2 billion and to create up to 60,000 jobs in the next five years. That’s a lot of workers’ comp policies.

For our latest podcast we spoke with NYSIF Director Kerry Kirwan to learn why the state’s largest workers’ comp carrier got into cannabis so quickly and what the experience has been like so far.

Following are takeaways from that conversation.

Kirwan explained why NYSIF got into the insuring cannabis market right away.

“NYSIF began writing the cannabis industry in August of this year,” she said. “NYSIF’s mission since 1914 has been to serve businesses across New York State. And that mission includes supporting new businesses and new markets. So, we felt it was important for us to get into the marketplace and let people know that we are able to write them their mandatory coverages of workers’ compensation and disability benefits coverage.”

New York Licenses First Cannabis Shops, Reminds Insurers to Not Use Expunged Crimes

NYSIF writes two lines of coverage: workers’ comp, which provides coverage for injuries occurring on the job, and short-term disability, which covers injuries off the job. She directed businesses looking for coverage information specific to cannabis can go to the carrier’s dedicated cannabis web portal.

“That page will also allow them to obtain a quote if they want one or if they have specific information related to the cannabis industry about the services we provide,” she said.

With such a big footprint, claims data from NYSIF will likely prove interesting. However, such data will have to wait.

“So, at this point, I think it’s too early to discuss any claims data, because it is so new here in New York,” Kirwan said. “But we do have an extensive claims operation here at NYSIF. So, if and when injuries do occur, we have an experienced staff that will assist both the employer and the injured worker navigating their claim.”

She also discussed risks specific to the cannabis industry that NYSIF has had to consider. Of course, risks within the cannabis industry will dependent upon the specific sector within the cannabis market.

“So for example, we expect to see similar risks for farmers in the cannabis industry as we would for any of the other farmers that we insure,” she said. “As far as anyone working in the retail space, we would expect to be seeing similar injuries for the risk for the growers and the processors will be different than those working in the retail dispensaries. But NYSIF also has an extensive risk control team that will work along with our policy holders to monitor and mitigate any of those risks. We have an online safety resource center. It’s almost like a library where they can go for information related to the cannabis industry, how to remain safe, certain things that they can send out to their employees if they have safety committees because our goal at NYSIF is to keep our employees, is to keep our policy holders employees safe.”


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