Insurers to treat pot like tobacco

Canadian life insurance companies to consider the two equally – and charge higher premiums in the process

With the legalization of marijuana right around the corner, questions have been mounting as to how insurers will treat those who smoke. Now, a new report suggests it will be looked at in the same light as tobacco.

According to a Toronto Star article, life insurance companies will classify both with the same level of risk – while asking for higher premiums for those who smoke either one, compared to those who do not smoke at all.

The decision has caused controversy, however, with producers and advocates of medical marijuana believing that life insurers need to change their policies to avoid penalizing those who need to use the drug – including the increasing level of people who are ingesting it in liquid form. In addition, commercial growers are asking health insurance companies to offer cover for medical marijuana when it is provided via a prescription.

Producers believe that the hurdles that have been put in place by insurance companies has prompted many patients to look away from the regulated system – and instead seek out competitors that offer untested products via illegal dispensaries.

Speaking to the publication, Jim Pan, a life insurance broker, commented that there are two ways to disclose use of medical marijuana – with clients able to state whether they smoke pot for recreational use or list it as a prescription if they use it medically. According to Pan, marijuana users are generally classified the same as those smoking tobacco – with slightly higher premiums on life insurance policies and often twice as much charged with critical illness cover.

However, a doctor looking at the therapeutic effects of marijuana, MJ Milloy, commented to The Toronto Star that classifying cannabis and tobacco on the same level was “inappropriate” and that “there is no good evidence to suggest that people who smoke cannabis have a raised risk of lung cancer or other respiratory or cardiovascular diseases”.

Do you believe it’s time for life and health insurers to revisit their approach to marijuana? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.