Monday, August 17, 2015

We will fire no weed before it's time.

This weekend was Hempfest in Seattle. 24 years of the Marijuana community coming together and having a huge party. There are bands on stage. There has been Bong-A-Thons. Celebrities show up like Tommy Chong and Woody Harrelson. Then why was I 180 miles east?

I was in for a Man –I-juana weekend. It was a week ends of firsts and of high danger. This was not a Kumbaya love fest where everyone holds hands. This was a joint smoking, beer swilling, everyone grabs a shovel to save the Farm weekend. I got in late Friday evening when one of my clients called about Chelan being fired and what was his coverages. From that we developed a plan.

We were going to talk in the morning and evaluate the situation, get power running and the farm up and running. The farm survived the night as it raged on one mountain side. The sheriff ordered an Evacuation level three (everyone out because of danger) and at one point told them that ‘they wanted that pot farm to burn to the ground.’

When I showed up the entrance to the valley was blocked and the sheriff was not letting anyone in. By checking the map, I saw that there were other entrances that got to where I needed to be so I found a secondary route into the valley. I got to drive over some power lines and headed to the farm.

I had my first introduction to the team and the first silver bullet for the night. There was ash raining down in the air as we checked the electrical lines for the greenhouses. Since everything was 110 plugs, it was a matter of running electrical cords with a generator. I had a 135 watt solar panel with an 800 watt inverter attached to the deep cycle battery. I need a better battery pack and possibly a stronger inverter. It was weird that with so much going on there was no cell services so my wife wouldn’t get my call until I hitched a ride into town.

Before diner a woodpile flared up across the way and so we grabbed shovels and went for it. A couple of the neighbors showed up with an Orchard sprayer and shovels. The neighbors were amazed that an Insurance guy would be out in the smoke with everyone and they gripped that they couldn’t get coverage for their cherries. There was a good dirt road to act as a barrier and the first appearance of the fire department. We hung out and found out that they weren’t going to do anything major until structures were threatened. This means that crops and livestock were not on the list to be saved and for the most part we were on our own.

We retreated for the food and to watch the hillside slowly burn. Booze, burgers and joints were passed around as we talked under the glow of the wildfire until one by one the majority crawled into a bed. There were rockslides, burning logs and bleating goats to wake everyone on a regular basis. Every couple of hours a spot light from the road would shine up at the fires. We would all say to each other, ’Yup that’s a fire,’ to highlight the ridiculous attitude of the officials. A few of the guys stood watch throughout the night. We knew if it hit the hay field then we could lose everything in a firestorm.

I rolled out of bed around 5:30 as the fire was to the first hay field. The fire department finally made an appearance with an engine. After a coffee run and what seemed like hours of debate. They finally let the farmer disk the field and the fire to burn itself out. We retreated again for food and work as the fire department watched the situation from a comfortable distance.

After we got generators up and running for the green house fans, it was pretty clear that the action was done and my smoky butt should go home. After a day and a half, I felt like I rubbed myself with cheap grocery store bacon. We learned some good lessons.

1. Don’t expect the police to be friendly despite doing a legal business.
2. Do expect the power to go out.
3. Do build a way to defend property against fire and a team that will fight.
4. Do look at insurance coverages for property to give you options.

Man –I-juana is a the can do spirit of the entrepreneur that will fight to build an industry. Will stand and deliver when others run from the fight. You may never see any of the guys that I say on a main stage celibrating, they are too busy with the hard work of fighting fires with shovels.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Having your business survive a Wildfire.

I started fielding calls last night for the latest round of Wildfires in Eastern Washington. With high winds, draught conditions and lightning strikes it made for a long night. Some of the best growers in the state are in remote areas that property coverage when possible is costly. With the trends of the last couple of years, the price of fire insurance for property will continue to rise. Insurance is to get you able to rebuild. Yes, it can be costly however do you want to start from zero or do you want to have money to rebuild?

One of the first things that I talk about is defendable space. Clearing brush and barren roads help reduce the chances of fire jumping. There are plants that resist wildfire better than others. Remember it is only a reduction. Keep sprinklers running to reduce flare ups on your outdoor crops. Last night was a grim reminder no barrier is 100% effective as we had fire jump the Columbia River. At almost a mile across, residents consider it one of the best barriers for fire and it failed. If you are ordered to evacuate then get out.

The major issue for remote location is power. You cannot run your fans or your pumps with no power. Some of my guys favor small generators but quite a few are on solar. I am taking out my Teardrop trailer today. It has a 135 Watt panel on top and with an inverter; I can run a large portion of a client’s farm. The lack of power left large portions of last year vulnerable during last year’s season.

Lastly, if your crops get hit by the fire retardant, rinse off as soon as possible or else your plants’ leaves will burn. It can stain paint and discolor metal. Don’t let pets drink from puddles.

Good luck out there and stay safe.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Myth: Marijuana Insurance is not consumer friendly....

You can shop for Insurance for your Marijuana Business, however the approach is different. Most people are used to getting insurance for their home or auto. There is an Independent Agents, Farmers, All State, Progressive, etc… on every corner and if you go to the internet more choices. You can have a dozen different quotes from five companies in under an hour. What happens when all those different choices have only three Companies to choose from?

You create Jam and not in a tasty, good way. It wastes your valuable time as a business owner and it can cost you money. If you want to minimize your efforts and maximize your results for insurance then this is how you do it:

You shop for the broker. Yes, you want to apply some old school methods and build a relationship. By spending five minutes with three or four different brokers, you can save you self a lot of headache and your business a lot money. Here are some questions to ask:

1. How well do you support the Cannabis Industry? Are they a member of a trade association? (Look for someone that invests into your industry instead of extracting from it.)
2. Is this a normal product line? Does the agency have people dedicated to it or do they do one or two policies a year? (You are looking for someone that has current knowledge of the industry.)
3. How many companies do you work with? Are they directly connected to a whole sale insurance company or do they go through multiple brokers? (Insurance companies can add fees pay attention to the quotes as fees must be spelled out what dollars is going where).
4. Do they bring anything else to the table? Can they help with Health Insurance or insuring your transportation vehicles? Do they know Finance Companies? (A broker that has successfully worked the Marijuana Industry will have valuable contacts and resources that can improve your business.)
5. Do you have discounts? (Yes, there are a few of us that have discounts available).
Yes, I do get quick requests of ‘send me an app’ or how much for ‘$1 million in liability’. If you want a inexpensive policy that covers what you think it covers then spend the five minutes and talk with your Broker. Ask your current broker a few of those questions. You are a business owner, shop for a broker throughout the year.

You can always make the change in the quoting process or that 30 day renewal time. The broker of record letter looks like the following.

It is no big deal to get the policy that you want for your Marijuana business, at a good price. Just go a little old school and shop the broker not the policy. If you send a request to my website, I do ask questions.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Washington, Oregon, Colorado and California; what do they have in Common?

I think that I am done expanding for the season. After years of working in Washington State and having countless requests, I added Oregon, California and Colorado. If you are in another state, talk to me as it costs several hundred dollars and time to add a state. I don’t want to be adding fees and I like keeping the client’s costs low.

The Marijuana Industry and the Insurance Industry has a fascinating relationship. Insurance rates are built on history and known information whereas Marijuana and the Cannabis Industry is new and rapidly changing not everything is known.

For example back in May, Tom Bolt wrote to the U.S. Syndicates that Lloyds of London will no longer support insuring marijuana operations. Like an old security blanket, tossed in the corner by a growing child we had different companies to work with.

For our agency, it was no big deal as our whole sale company shifted carriers back in February to a product that the clients are enjoying. As retail insurance professional, I work maintain professional relationships with different whole sale companies to find products that suit my client’s needs. It is like going to your favorite restaurant, the specials change from Shrimp Salad to a New York Steak.

There are times that a whole sale company will reject part or a whole application due to risk. One of the more common rejections is covering property because of high fire risk. Be honest, not every company covers every risk and by hiding something when a claim arises, an insurance company could deny payment.

There are a few other agencies that work in the marijuana industry to various degrees. Some agents may be working with a whole sale broker that is going through another whole sale broker which adds fees. Some maybe doing one or two policies a year and not know what a BHO process or how Products Liability Coverage can impact your Vape Line that you are carrying.

The old rule of shop the agent and not the policy holds true. If you assume that Insurance is all the same and run out and attempt to get several different quotes to educate yourself on price then you are creating unnecessary problems. By shopping for price, you are pulling a slot machine lever hopping to match up a policy, good coverages with a good agent. Don’t gamble on you and your business’s future and check us out today.