Can you get life insurance when you smoke marijuana?
And can I get through this post without a lot of stupid marijuana jokes?
Yes, with qualifiers, to the first question.
To the second question, believe it or not — yes, that headline excepted. Believe me, in the writing of this post, I tried, but most of my puns about grass and stoners came off as sophisticated as second grade humor. So from here on out, I’ll play it straight.
The life insurance and marijuana question is one that people have been asking, probably about as long as smoking pot has been around, but it’s certainly relevant in today’s times. After all, once upon a time, if you used marijuana, you were breaking the law, and insurance companies didn’t like that, figuring that if you’re going to engage in the type of behavior that could get you arrested, what other risky, possibly life-threatening activities might you be involved with?
And while marijuana itself might not be risky, marijuana proponents would argue, doing anything that could get you arrested is definitely risky, the life insurance industry would argue right back. It means you’re willing to engage in an activity that could put you in the clink, sitting in a cell with a guy named Knuckles.
And as I’ve noted a million times before on this blog, life insurance is all about risk. Companies want to insure people who have a good chance of being around a long time, which should make everyone do a little jig or dance of joy when a life insurer accepts them. It means the industry thinks your odds of sticking around are good.
Anyway, as far as marijuana goes, the times are changing. In Colorado and Washington, marijuana is legal to use for medical or recreational use. Alaska and Oregon are also in the process of completely legalizing the drug while the District of Columbia recently gave it the ol’ college try until Congress blocked it from happening. The cities of Portland and South Portland, Maine, have fully legalized marijuana, and in 24 states, you can use marijuana for medical purposes. So whatever your opinion on marijuana, increasingly if you’re using it in the United States, you aren’t breaking the law.
So where does the life insurance industry stand on marijuana now?
The answer is, as with so many things, it depends. The good news is that there are some insurance companies that will insure you with preferred rates if you smoke marijuana irregularly, like twice a year (in which case, I know, you’re not likely to volunteer that information, that, hey, by the way, about 9 months ago at my friend’s chili potluck dinner… but still, that’s the policy for some). Some will even allow two to four times a week (i.e., Prudential).
There are also many insurance companies that will let you smoke marijuana with some regularity, but you’ll be charged cigarette smoker rates, which, of course, are quite a bit higher than those of a non-smoker, sometimes as much as four times greater, in fact. And, yes, before you bring it up, I know that you might ingest marijuana through some other way than actually smoking it. You could take it in pill form, as some people who use marijuana for medical purposes do. You could use it through a vaporizer. I don’t make up the rules, folks. I just sell insurance.
A few other things to note, if you’re a recreational marijuana user and you’re applying for life insurance:
- Honestly is always the best policy, especially with actual life insurance policies. In other words, don’t lie about your marijuana use, especially if there’s any chance marijuana will be detected during your medical exam (i.e., the urine or blood test). If you say you don’t do drugs, and your life insurer learns that you do, your application may be declined. If nothing else, you’ll get worse rates. But if you tell the truth, and then they find traces of marijuana in your system, as noted, with some life insurance carriers, it’s no big deal. But if they discover you’re lying about your drug use, the life insurer will wonder what else you’re lying about.
- If you partake in other drugs, like cocaine or heroin, and you’re looking into a life insurance policy, good luck with that. If you’re found to have heavier drugs in your system, even if you’re an outstanding citizen who spends his or her time feeding the homeless and taking care of sick puppies, you’ll be turned down flat. It’s just too much of a risk for insurers.
- If you have an arrest record with your casual marijuana use, you’ll probably be turned down life insurance. It isn’t fair in some cases. You might have been arrested for your marijuana use, for instance, or maybe you were protesting some injustice and taken in for not leaving the area soon enough. But an arrest record often does hurt your chances of getting life insurance.
- If you’re going to get a medical exam soon, and you can refrain from ingesting marijuana for awhile beforehand, I would, even if you know the carrier accepts recreational marijuana use, just to increase your odds of getting the best rates. (It just seems like common sense.) That said, traces of marijuana use can show up in tests from four to six weeks ago, and so depending on how much of a regular user you are, that may or may not be an option for you.
- What if you own a marijuana business or work at one, but you don’t actually use the stuff? You should be in the clear. You might theoretically have a tough time getting some insurers to believe you, but some will, and I’ll bet most would — provided you pass the medical test.
- What if you’re living in a state that doesn’t allow recreational marijuana use? If you admit that on your form, could, oh, I don’t know… could I decide to ruin your day and turn you into the police? No — or at least not without destroying my own business in the process and probably winding up in jail myself. HIPPA laws prohibit life insurance agents from reporting drug use to the police. Same goes with the insurance company — they can’t say a word — or the physician or nurse who conducts your medical exam.
Well, no, wait, on that last point, one fun fact I found in my research. According to LegalMatch.com, a life insurance company could report your marijuana use under the following conditions:
- To comply with a court order
- To identify a fugitive, suspect, material witness, or missing person
- To identity child abuse or neglect
- To alert law enforcement about the death of an individual if criminal activity was involved
- When required by law, such as reports of stab or bullet wounds
Not to stereotype fugitives and child abusers, but I’m guessing most of them aren’t the sort of responsible citizens who would take out a life insurance policy for their family. So if you’re reading this blog post on my web site, I think you’re perfectly safe. But that’s the thing — we live in a different time than we did back in, say, the 1960’s or 1970’s. Insurers get that while most drug use is incredibly risky activity, nowadays they tend to look at it as no worse than smoking, and many insurers are coming around to the idea that it’s not nowhere near as unhealthy as being a habitual smoker. In other words, the occasional recreational marijuana user isn’t seen as a pothead in today’s world. Insurers see many of them as responsible citizens, the kind who would — and should — be able to have life insurance.
Maybe you are older and concerned if you can qualify for life insurance for seniors over 70. Or maybe you’re interested in a final expense insurance plan. If so, we can answer your questions and help you get the coverage you deserve.
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