Are Marijuana Smokers Considered High Risk to Life Insurers?

When we compare marijuana use today, to usage and stereotyping in the 70s and 80s, the image of clueless marijuana smokers has faded as Americans have come to accept recreational use as a personal choice with minimal consequences.

Since more than 50 percent of states have legalized marijuana use in some form, life insurance companies are taking a more liberal approach when setting underwriting guidelines and rates.

According to recent surveys conducted by Pew Research Center as recently as 2016, 57 percent of U.S. adults say the use of marijuana should be made legal, while only 37 percent believe it should be illegal. This is a significant shift when the numbers are compared to the previous decade where just 32 percent favored legalization and a whopping 60 percent were opposed.

Insurer Change In Thinking

Research now reveals that life insurance companies have started to become more open-minded about the idea of insuring marijuana smokers. In fact, a report published by Munich American Reassurance Company shows 29 percent of life insurance companiesfemale marijuana smokers classifies marijuana users as non-smokers if they do not use any type of tobacco products as well.

The offer to allow marijuana users the non-smoker classification is a big deal when you compare life insurance rates for smokers versus non-smokers. It indicates to marijuana users that getting high occasionally may not affect your image when it comes to life insurance underwriting.

Are Non-Smoker Rates Available to Marijuana Smokers?

Not that long ago, life insurers were still taking a wait-and-see attitude on marijuana use. What has changed? Why are states legalizing? Since irrefutable research is still not widely available, it appears that many life insurers are liberalizing underwriting guidelines because of competition in the marketplace. After all, competition is what drives the market for any product or service.

Although the train has arrived announcing that tobacco use is consistently detrimental to one’s overall health and will likely lead to cancer, the marijuana train has not reached the station and therefore the jury is still out.

The good news is that yes, some life insurers will allow non-smoker rates for marijuana smokers, provided there is no tobacco use as well. This is tremendously positive news when you consider that smoker rates are typically more than 50 percent higher than non-smoker rates and the federal government still considers marijuana use a crime.

Is There A Movement Towards Acceptance?

Maybe, maybe not. The number of carriers that offer non-smoker rates for marijuana use is still relatively slim. Also, theacceptable marijuana smokers frequency of use plays a big part in the classification and rating process. It’s also important to note that the applicant’s overall health comes into play during the underwriting process, as well as occupation, travel plans, and the financial need for the insurance. Insurance companies typically shy away from offering a $1 million dollar policy to an unemployed father of four who travels frequently to dangerous nations.

As U.S. life insurers make significant strides toward changing outdated underwriting standards and guidelines regarding marijuana use, America is also changing opinions regarding its social acceptance. But, and this is a significant “but”, research will continue and opinions may very well change at any time based on that research.

We know that companies like MetLife, Prudential, Principal, and United of Omaha have opted to offer non-smoker rates for marijuana smokers and are even more welcoming for those who prefer edibles to smoking. The list of companies taking a more liberal stance on marijuana is pretty short, but unless a “research bomb” is dropped revealing negative aspects of this herb, we can expect more companies to come around because of competition in the marketplace.

What About Medicinal Use Only?

When insurance underwriters consider applicants that state “medicinal use only’”, they immediately look at the condition for which the prescription was written to treat. Medical marijuana, although still in its infancy compared to traditional drugs, is prescribed primarily to alleviate the patient’s pain or nausea caused by a chronic condition or other treatment such as chemotherapy.

In these cases, the medical marijuana is not the culprit for driving up rates; it’s the condition causing the symptoms that it has been prescribed for. Yes, there are health practitioners who might prescribe medical marijuana for reasons other than therapeutic, but your underwriter will recognize this practice by reviewing other data that the insurer will collect about your health care.

What’s the Bottom Line for Marijuana Smokers?

It’s probably best to think of life insurance underwriting as a trend rather than a strict science. As the public changes it’s bottom line for marijuana smokersattitudes towards certain behaviors, so shall insurers. What used to be forbidden and considered nefarious conduct can change over time as the secular population becomes less interested in that conduct.

It’s also important to consider treatments and cures. What may have been an automatic decline by insurers twenty years ago, is now acceptable because of continued research, innovations in discovery and treatment of illnesses, and a more open-minded public when it comes to behavior. Today, smoking marijuana will certainly not get you stigmatized like it has it the past, but it will still be a cause for concern just like using tobacco products and alcohol.

It’s not as much about what you smoke or ingest, but about how frequent you partake and the amount of it. For example, MetLife will allow an applicant to use marijuana up to four times a week and in many cases, still be rated a non-smoker. But if you report usage of more than that, you will automatically pay twice the premium because you’ll be assigned the smoker rate.

This same guideline applies to Prudential applicants but is reduced to three times per week to get the non-smoker rating. Smoke pot three times a week and you will pay half as much than if you smoked four? That doesn’t sound very scientific but at least marijuana users have a shot at getting the same rates as any other non-smoker.

Now What?

Since there are certain life insurers that provide lower rates for marijuana smokers, there are independent agents that know who they are and the many other underwriting guidelines they employ. This simply means that to get the best value for life insurance if you use marijuana, it’s important to contact an insurance professional at Marijuana Life Insurance 360 who can help make that happen. They represent the top 100 life insurers and can shop your particular case with the carrier that will deliver the best solution for your individual situation.