Cannabis reform is sweeping through the U.S., which is a good thing.
However, the fact that cannabis is still a schedule I controlled substance at the federal level creates a lot of different challenges.
Insurance is a big one.
If you’re a cannabis consumer trying to get the best rates for insurance, particularly life insurance, you will find yourself in a tricky conundrum.
Cannabis and Life Insurance
Life insurance companies are required to verify the level of risk when insuring a person, and this includes an extensive questionnaire about their health and lifestyle. One of the questions simply asks: “Are you a smoker?”
This is a loaded question for a cannabis consumer.
Tobacco smoke has clearly been proven to cause various cancers, but low to moderate use of cannabis is much less harmful to lungs than tobacco.
On the contrary, cannabis can be a very effective form of relief for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and cannabis smoke contains cannabinoids that may actually reduce some cancer risks.
We reached out to Ty Stewart of Simple Insure and creator of this infographic to find out more information about securing the best life insurance rates as a cannabis consumer.
Stewart informed us that not all insurance companies think alike. “This will be all over the map. Some companies are more friendly and progressive, others frown upon marijuana use,” Stewart tells us. “Some automatically group you in with tobacco users, others do not.”
This is why it is crucial to do your research when looking for an insurance company. Otherwise you may face higher rates and face penalization for your cannabis use.
Life Insurance As a Medical Cannabis Patient
If you are using cannabis for medical reasons, you need to be honest on your insurance application and disclose that you are a medical cannabis patient.
You may actually be entitled to lower rates, as Stewart explains.
“If [cannabis] is the only variable then yes, they have a better chance at lower rates. However, why were they being recommended cannabis? Life insurance underwriting looks at all aspects of a person’s health history, so the specific medical condition will need to be factored in and can often result in a lower rate,” Stewart clarifies. “This is because of the health issue, though, and not the marijuana use.”
Most insurers will want to know what medical conditions qualify you for medical cannabis, as your health is one of the most important considerations when making a determination about life insurance.
Although it may be dependent on the underlying medical conditions you are treating with cannabis, more often than not, having a medical cannabis recommendation may actually lead to lower rates than an adult who uses cannabis recreationally.
Some medical patients prefer not to smoke cannabis, preferring instead to ingest cannabis-infused edibles or tinctures, or using a vaporizer to reduce the impact on lungs.
We asked Stewart as to whether ingestion method makes a difference in insurance rates, and he replied, “Generally speaking, not much of a difference but again, this varies from company to company so a user will want to pick the right one.”
Insurance companies are more interested in frequency of use and qualifying conditions than whether you consume cannabis via smoke or otherwise.
Life Insurance As an Adult Cannabis Consumer
Once again, if you are a regular or habitual cannabis consumer, be honest. Not only is lying on an insurance application considered fraud, lying about your cannabis use could lead to higher premiums or even worse, your policy may be voided after death if the insurance company discovers the deception.
It’s also worth noting that HIPAA privacy laws protect you from trouble with the law after disclosing cannabis use, so you will not face any legal consequences for your honesty.
For most insurance policies, you will usually be required to undergo both a medical exam and a drug test, so the doctors and insurers will find out eventually either way – and being honest keeps you from facing consequences with the insurance company further down the road.
The biggest factors that insurers take into consideration is how frequently you use cannabis, and the date of your last usage.
If you are a frequent cannabis user, usually more than once a week, you may not qualify for the best nonsmoking rates, however, you may be able to qualify for the standard nonsmoking rates at other companies.
Once again, Stewart reminds us, “This is why people use a service like ours is that we can guide them to the best fit for their needs whether that be cannabis use or anything else.”
Health Insurance Coverage & Cannabis
A recent poll by Quinnipiac University found that 93 percent of Americans support the legalization of medical cannabis if recommended by a doctor.
Unfortunately, cannabis is still a federally restricted substance. This means that any medical recommendation written by a doctor in a medically legal state has no bearing, as it is not technically a “prescription.”
Without the option to legally “prescribe” cannabis, even doctors and health insurance companies who may privately support medical cannabis find their hands tied when it comes to coverage.
Most health insurance companies cannot and do not recognize cannabis as a course of treatment, leaving medical cannabis patients to foot the often prohibitively expensive bill.
Auto Insurance Coverage & Cannabis
As a cannabis consumer and driver, cannabis use should generally not affect your rates for auto insurance.
This could change in an instant if you are arrested or convicted for driving under the influence of cannabis.
The vast majority of states treat driving under the influence of cannabis with the same punishment as driving under the influence of alcohol.
There are currently 12 states and one district that make the distinction between driving under the influence of cannabis and driving under the influence of alcohol. These states usually require a blood or urine test to determine if there is THC in the driver’s bloodstream if they suspect a cannabis DUI.
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
- The District of Columbia
Even in states that recognize a clear distinction for driving under the influence of cannabis, the science behind making that determination is faulty.
Most states rely on blood or urine testing for THC metabolites in the driver’s system, but metabolites may remain in someone’s body for up to one month after cannabis use, and this is certainly not a reliable indicator of whether the driver is impaired.
The Truth About Your Insurance & Cannabis
What it all comes down to is that cannabis is complicated.
Many companies are working under federal regulations and cannabis is a federally restricted substance.
Until the United States passes overarching and comprehensive federal cannabis policy reform, the answers to normally straightforward questions will continue to exist in a murky legal gray area.
It may take years or even decades, but with each new state that legalizes and each new legislature that passes medical cannabis laws, we move one step closer to making these processes easier for both patients and adult consumers.
Have you had an experience dealing with cannabis-related insurance issues? Let us know in the comments.
And directly below, check out Simple Insure’s infographic on cannabis and insurance: