Insurance industry suspects legal pot use will cause more auto and homeowner’s claims


By Bank Rate

So far, the insurance industry’s concerns over the growing acceptance of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use across the land have focused on the auto insurance risks of driving stoned and the home insurance liability of setting cannabis-altered party guests loose into the night.

We can now add exploding homes to that worry list.

The New York Times reports that the number of home explosions in Colorado, triggered by marijuana users in “Breaking Bad”-style home laboratories trying to render their weed into a liquid concentrate known as hash oil, jumped last year to 32. That was up from 12 in the previous year.

Colorado passed a constitutional amendment in 2012 making it legal to grow, process, sell and smoke marijuana in the Mile High State. The Rocky Mountain High-Intensity Drug Tracking Area, which acts as liaison between federal and state drug enforcers, says no one has been killed in the explosions, but 17 individuals have been treated for severe burns, some of which required skin grafts and surgery.

Marijuana-related blasts in other states

The uptick in home explosions has not been confined to Colorado. Similar trends have been spotted from California to Illinois to Florida.

To date, more than half the states and the District of Columbia have legalized some form of marijuana use.

Here’s how the Times describes the home hazard:

“The explosions occur as people pump butane fuel through a tube packed with raw marijuana plants to draw out the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, producing a golden, highly potent concentrate that people sometimes call honey oil, earwax or shatter. The process can fill a room with volatile butane vapors that can be ignited by an errant spark or flame.”

Those who blow their roof off in this manner have been prosecuted by Colorado law enforcement for arson and illegal marijuana manufacturing. Officials maintain that the law that gives licensed and regulated marijuana manufacturing facilities the right to process weed into hash oil does not extend those rights to the pot-smoking public.

Like frying Thanksgiving turkey?

But marijuana advocates like attorney Robert Corry disagree.

“I view this as the equivalent of frying turkey for Thanksgiving,” he said in defense of a client. “Someone spills the oil, and there’s an explosion. It’s unfortunate, but it’s not a felony crime.”

Home and auto insurers have so far been hesitant at best to delve into the marijuana use of their customers, in large part because cannabis remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance at the federal level. For this reason, home and auto insurers don’t usually ask about marijuana use, nor do their standard contract forms.

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