Let’s talk about a topic on everybody’s mind and, no, we don’t mean Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign. The topic we are talking about is marijuana, smoking pot and how it effects your life insurance.
That’s right, stoners! We’re going to talk about marijuana use, specifically, its impacts on your life insurance premium.
Chances are, if you have stumbled onto this article, it’s because you were Google searching “life insurance and marijuana.” Equally likely are the chances that you were high when doing so, or you plan on being high in the near future. Don’t worry; we’re not judging.
Whether you are a recreational marijuana user, a heavy pot smoker or are simply just curious about the topic, you’re in good company. By “good company,” we mean most of the world. Marijuana is the third most popular recreational drug in the world, and, in the United States, 38% of adults have tried pot and 7% report smoking it regularly.
So, spark a J and grab the Cheetos, because we are about to discuss something radical: marijuana’s impacts on your life insurance premium. Trust us, it’s more interesting than it sounds.
Reefer Madness: The Case for Marijuana
According to a 2013 Gallup Poll, the support for legalizing marijuana has gotten higher (see what we did there?) since the mid-90s. In 2012, Oregon and Colorado sparked the revolution (okay, we’ll stop), making marijuana legal state-wide.
In the past four years, two more states have followed suit. Currently, twenty-three states have passed laws authorizing medical marijuana and an additional eighteen have decriminalized its use.
The trend has caught on nation-wide, too. While the drug is not decriminalized across the United States, the DEA, under the guidance of President Obama, has stopped actively pursuing marijuana offense in those states that are pro “puff puff pass.” In case you didn’t know, the DEA stands for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, so that change is a pretty big deal.
Additionally, more Americans are getting behind the idea of legalizing marijuana. According to that same 2013 Gallup Poll, about 51% of Americans are in favor of marijuana legalization.
With all of the hullabaloo surrounding the legalization of marijuana, we thought it was time to set the record straight on what would happen to your life insurance if marijuana were legalized in the United States.
This Is Your Insurance on Drugs
The long and short answer is: we don’t know how marijuana use will impact your insurance.
It has already impacted health insurance; despite its legality for medical reasons, health insurance companies still don’t cover prescriptions for medical marijuana. It’s a classic case of state-vs-federal rights, except, in this case, health insurers can only side with the federal government. Federally, marijuana is still classified in the same category as meth and heroin, which makes it difficult to use in medical studies.
Life insurance is a little different. It is the job of a life insurance underwriter to look at risk as an entire picture. This means they have to take into account almost all factors of an applicant’s life: his or her health, hobbies, career and lifestyle choices.
Whether or not marijuana will impact life insurance premiums across the board is tough to say, because there are so many factors underwriters look at when assessing risk.
It isn’t uncommon for marijuana users to be rated on the same scale as tobacco users. This means that premiums will be higher (roughly two-to-four times higher) than non-smokers because of the risk the inhalant poses to lung and heart health.
If you are reading this thinking that marijuana poses less of a risk than tobacco use, then you’re not alone. However, keep in mind that using marijuana for medical research is a big no-no in the eyes of the federal government, which means that there is no concrete evidence that the effects of marijuana are less harmful than tobacco.
Frustrated yet? It gets more ambiguous.
With certain carriers, you actually might be able to get great ratings. This is because some companies are more lenient with underwriting. For example, you may find a company that looks favorably upon recreational marijuana use but strictly underwrites frequent tokers.
Similarly to tobacco, the less frequently you smoke, the better your risk rating and premiums will be. In some cases, you might get a preferred non-smoker rate!
What about medical marijuana users, you ask? They, like infrequent smokers, will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. This means that your underwriter will evaluate your unique situation and assess your risk accordingly. If your insurer doesn’t see your condition as serious, you could be rated with smoker premiums. If the condition is too serious, such as certain types of cancer, arthritis or AIDS, you might be declined of coverage.
The latter scenario may still be insurable; however, it would be classified as “high risk” insurance, and you could expect to have high premiums.
For those of you who got lost back there: it’s tough to say how your insurance will be impacted by the legalization of marijuana use, as life insurance underwriters assess risk on a case-by-case basis.
This means we’ll have to wait for the federal government to allow more research to be done into medical marijuana.
Until that day comes, there are ways to have your risk looked upon favorably.
One way is to work with an independent agent.
A trusted independent agent can preliminary assess your risk and find the carriers who look favorably upon your risk. This not only saves you money, but it also saves you time and stress. Additionally, an agent will be able to give you a good idea of what you will end up paying in life insurance based on your unique circumstances.
One thing you should always do when applying for life insurance is be completely honest about your marijuana use – even if it is illegal in your state. You marijuana use will reveal itself in your blood test of your medical records, and that, dear friends, is called insurance fraud.
Here’s what happens when you lie to an insurance company: you get reported to the Medical Information Bureau. While that may not seem so scary, it does mean that finding a company to cover you will be almost impossible.
If you plan on detoxing before your test and picking up smoking again after you’ve earned non-smoker rates, you may face more severe consequences than a decline. Marijuana is detectable in your urine for up to a month and in your blood between 3 and 14 days after use. So, if you lie to get non smoker rates and you pass away with marijuana in your system, your family may not be eligible to receive your benefits.
Hopefully the knowledge you just inhaled helps you understand a little more about how life insurance companies view marijuana use.
Until the effects of marijuana user are extensively studied, life insurance companies will continue to evaluate marijuana use on a case-by-case basis. Your best bet toward earning the best premiums, even as a marijuana user, is to seek the help of a reputable agent. An agent will be able to help you find the best companies that will look favorably upon your marijuana use.
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