With the number of states permitting marijuana continually increasing, many nurses are asking if they have coverage for working in facilities that prescribe or dispense marijuana. The answer isn’t as straightforward as one would hope. As with most insurance claims it’s difficult to offer broad advice as to how a policy will respond, civil lawsuits against health care professionals are often complex – the allegations and potential insurance coverage is often litigated for years. This is why it is important to purchase the broadest insurance coverage possible.
Almost all nursing malpractice policies contain a criminal acts exclusion. Insuring criminal acts is against public policy and almost all US issued liability insurance policies contain an exclusion against criminal or dishonest acts. However, many policies with defend you until it has been proven that you have committed a crime. When an RN or LPN is accused of breaking the law in their practice, whether it’s an allegation of sexual abuse or a claim of intentional overdosing of a patient, most policies will provide a defense until the person is found guilty or enters a guilty plea. Because civil malpractice suits are separate from criminal proceedings timing is everything.
This begs the question, is prescribing or dispensing medical marijuana a crime? According to many state laws, no. According to federal laws, yes. Medical Marijuana is operating in a legal grey area where it is technically illegal on a federal level but the government is not enforcing the laws. If an injury occurs and a claim is filed, that does not mean criminal proceedings are going to follow. Individuals cannot bring criminal charges against each other, only government prosecutors can.
A lawsuit over medical marijuana is likely to incur substantial legal bills without meaningful risk of a large verdict against the nurse, at the same time a criminal complaint against those involved in the prescription is highly unlikely. Under this scenerio a nurse would have their legal bills paid for as long as they had not been found guilty of criminal wrongdoing, any judgement or settlement would also likely be paid unless the individual was found guilty of breaking the law.
Each individual scenario is going to be specific to the circumstances of the case and the wording on the policy issues, contact an expert nursing insurance agent to discuss your situation.