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Ask the Cannabis Expert – Max Meade: What Are Key Insurance and Risk Management Strategies for License Applicants and New Operators?

As an Insurance Advisor with Brown & Brown Insurance, Max Meade specializes in cannabis insurance policies and risk management, and he serves cannabis customers all across the country. With a wide range of experience in the industry, Max develops insurance and risk management strategies and establishes policies for growers, cultivators, dispensaries, and cannabis brands. We asked Max, “What are the most important insurance and risk management strategies for license applicants and new operators?”

Max Meade’s background and how he started in the cannabis industry.

Max graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, around the time Colorado legalized cannabis for recreational adult use.  When Max’s cousin and grandmother became ill, they turned to cannabis to treat their illnesses, and this is when he realized the medicinal and healing effects of cannabis. 

Max Meade, Insurance Advisory Brown & Brown Insurance

This experience ‘sparked a light’ and changed how he looked at cannabis, which fueled his desire to learn more about the industry and help others.

When Max joined Brown & Brown Insurance, he wanted to focus on the cannabis industry to help customers with loss, claims, employee concerns, and more. He performed research to learn everything he could about the industry. In 2016, Max was able to apply all of his knowledge when he began working with his first cannabis insurance customer. At this time, insurance policies for cannabis operations were very new. As an industry trailblazer, Max helped his customers strategize, and he provided invaluable guidance in areas that they hadn’t even considered as part of their risk mitigation approach.

After his first few cannabis customers, Max noticed a disconnect in the cannabis insurance niche. Many cannabis operators mistakenly thought that their current insurance coverage appropriately addressed the risk associated with their cannabis business. However, more often than not, that is not the case. Other industries have not seen the fast-paced growth like the cannabis industry. To Max, it is essential that he takes the time to educate his customers about the potential pitfalls and risks that can potentially impact those in the cannabis industry, and how you can mitigate those risks with tailored coverage to help address their unique needs. Max works closely with his customers, providing guidance and insight through every stage and lifecycle of their business— from manufacturing and growing to marketing.

What are the key insurance and risk management strategies for license applicants and new operators?

Max emphasized that proactiveness is essential for license applicants and new operators. Business owners should be fully transparent with the industry professionals that they are working with throughout the process to maximize the benefit of having a team to share their experience and best practices. Max said, “It is so important to develop your team and involve cannabis industry professionals — CPAs, lawyers, insurance agents, and others — from the very beginning, throughout the entire process, and in every aspect of your operation. The more your entire team is aware of ongoing updates, opportunities, challenges, risks, and we know what’s going on, the more we can help to make recommendations to help protect your business. It’s truly a team effort. Overall, the best advice I can give is to get knowledgeable industry specialists involved at the early stages of your cannabis business, especially when it comes to insurance and risk management.”

Cannabis professionals may not have risk management top-of-mind when insuring their cannabis business. Max said, “It is essential to have a clear picture of what you currently have and what is excluded, missing, or what might not provide the most comprehensive coverage. Then be proactive to avoid discrimination or harassment and help protect yourself against potential risks. Cannabis business owners need to have a clear understanding of what they have and how to put risk management strategies and coverages in place to help protect their business.”

When starting a cannabis business, cybersecurity is fundamental, and it is critical to ensure that data and information are protected in case your business is hacked. It is highly costly to resolve an issue involving hackers and a cybersecurity breach. The information stored in a cannabis business’s IT systems includes their customer’s private information and business records. It can be challenging to remain secure, and cyber insurance could help provide protection in situations of a cyber claim. “You shouldn’t think of insurance as an expense; think of it as protection. Don’t let risk mitigation be an afterthought – it should be part of your initial planning right at the beginning because you never know what is going to happen throughout the process.” Max stresses.

Overall, when starting a new cannabis business, insurance and risk management should never be overlooked or under-emphasized. Working with insurance professionals to develop a comprehensive program to help protect your business from early on can save you time, money, and headaches as your grow your cannabis business.

We Can Help.

If you own a cannabis business or are thinking about starting a cannabis business, we’d like to help. As a partnership of highly skilled and seasoned cannabis industry consultants and advisors, Bridge West Consulting is ready to guide you through this exciting and challenging landscape. Feel free to reach out to us anytime to schedule a consultation.