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It was during his time with Allstate that the Woods family decided to move to Colorado, seeking a change of pace and fresh opportunities. While appreciating the space and freedom of his new home state, Woods was beginning to feel restless with life as a captive agent. He wanted more – so he decided to open an independent agency in Parker, a mid-sized town just 30 minutes southeast of Denver. His first phone call was one that changed his professional life forever. “My very first client was a man who had been illegally growing weed out of his basement for years, and now wanted to lease space in a commercial warehouse,” says Woods. “He was very reluctant, very shy and discreet, but he saw his opportunity and wanted to take a chance with his business. So I started doing the research.” Woods came back days later with documentation and a backing carrier. The client paid in cash, and Woods bound a policy that earned him $100 that year. It was then that the germ of an idea began to take shape. “What I remember most is respecting this guy because he wanted to finally have the opportunity to get it right,” he says. “For him to take that leap of faith along with me was a big step. I think that was what really drove me – at a very deep level, it was about helping the underdog.” Despite never having used marijuana himself (a choice he still maintains), Woods began to research the viability of a specialized cannabis insurance agency. Along with Mary, he made countless phone calls to underwriting groups willing to insure medical marijuana operations. Major carriers were obviously uninterested, so Woods relied on boutique groups and E&S markets

2011

Writes for Kush Magazine, a print and online magazine for the medical marijuana industry

2012

Colorado voters approve Amendment 64, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana

2014

First marijuana shops open on Jan. 1

2014

Greenpoint Insurance enjoys 40% growth over last year by August

JB WOODS ON… Myths about cannabis industry workers: “They’re not a bunch of stoners and pot heads – frankly, that image annoys me. My clients are absolutely brilliant. They’ve got law degrees and business degrees, and come from a wide variety of backgrounds.” Reactions to his business: “There’s a certain mystique to working in the cannabis business. People are really kind of fascinated by it. After all, the vast majority of the US has never been inside a grow [marijuana production facility].” The value of client discomfort: “You have to be comfortable creating tension in relationships. It’s better to discuss some of the ‘what ifs’ now, even if it may not be what a client wants to hear, because when a client suffers a loss and that lawsuit is filed, all bets are off.” Loving your niche: “You can’t be a jack-of-all-trades anymore. It’s too difficult. So, if you do pick a niche, find something you love. I loved mine and I still do.”

that had formed in California, where medical marijuana had been legal since 1996 – companies he describes as “willing to step out on a ledge.” Despite the relative lack of appetite, however, Woods was careful not to settle for what he could get — he looked into the history and financial stability of each provider carefully. “In this industry, you want to partner with groups that have some experience doing this,” he says. “Otherwise what you’ll see is someone jumping in and as soon as they get a claim, they jump back out. We’ve seen it before.” Federal law was another headache. The mismatch between federal and state regulation makes for miles of tricky legal terrain, so it was necessary for Woods to immerse himself in corporate, constitutional, insurance and marijuana law to guard against potential litigation. Today, he keeps his attorney on speed dial. Selfdescribed as “conservative by nature,” he believes it’s better to have professional validation in legal matters, especially in an industry where litigation is frequent and ruinous. His own legal knowledge has also proven invaluable in creating trust in client relationships. Woods recalls a more recent incident in which he spotted a major potential liability in a contract between one of his smaller clients and a significant non-cannabis company. “The larger organization was potentially putting my client’s company at dramatic risk based on how everything was unfolding,” Woods says. “I stepped right into the middle of their SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014 | 41  

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Profile for Key Media

Insurance Business America issue 2.04  

The magazine for America’s insurance broking and advice community.

Insurance Business America issue 2.04  

The magazine for America’s insurance broking and advice community.

Profile for keymedia