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UKIAH, Calif. (AP) -- A growing number of medical marijuana users whose
backyard pot plants were stolen by thieves or commandeered by police have
succeeded in getting insurance companies to reimburse them for the loss.

The dollar amounts aren't huge: The pot is supposed to keep one person
healthy not sold on the street, where high-grade marijuana is more
expensive than gold. However, one insurer paid $12,375 to a man who lost
three pounds of pot to an armed intruder.

But just as medical marijuana was beginning to gain acceptance as an
insurable good, a recent ruling by the Supreme Court in an Oakland, Calif.,
case has cast doubt on the future of such payments.

The court ruled in May that clubs dispensing medical marijuana according to
state laws could not use a "medical necessity" defense against federal
anti-drug laws, which do not allow for medical marijuana.

The court didn't resolve the question of whether individual Americans have
a right to marijuana as a pain remedy.

Even so, State Farm will deny future claims for medical marijuana, and the
other insurers will give them renewed scrutiny, spokesmen said.

"It's clearly stated in the homeowners' policy that we will not pay for
illegal activities," said Lonny Haskins, the State Farm spokesman.

In September 1999, Robert DeArkland of Fair Oaks became the first person
known to be reimbursed for marijuana through household insurance. He
received $6,500 from CGU California Insurance for 13 marijuana plants
seized from his garage by sheriffs' deputies.

Insurers generally agree that marijuana becomes a homeowner's personal
property under state law when the policyholder has permission to grow or
possess it for medical reasons. That's possible in the eight states with
state laws allowing medical marijuana -- California, Alaska, Arizona,
Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon and Washington.

Even though these laws are in conflict with federal law barring use or
possession of marijuana, major insurance companies have made at least a
dozen such reimbursements, according to a series of interviews by The
Associated Press. Most of the claims have been filed in California.

Medical marijuana advocates say insurers are treating the court ruling as
political cover, not legal precedent.

"If an insurance company is looking for an excuse to save a few dollars and
deny a claim, I suppose they can use the Supreme Court case as an excuse,"
says Keith Stroup, executive director of the National Organization for the
Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Newshawk: Doug McVay
Pubdate: Mon, 30 Jul 2001
Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2001, Canoe Limited Partnership
Contact: editor@sunpub.com
Website: http://www.canoe.ca/OttawaSun/
Details: Overload Warning
Author: Justin Pritchard, The Associated Press
Bookmark: Overload Warning (Cannabis)
Bookmark: Overload Warning (Cannabis - California)
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