Over the past few years, things have really gone to pot. We mean that literally: California became the first state to legalize medicinal marijuana in 1996, and Colorado and Washington jointly (cough) legalized recreational weed in 2012. In 2014, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment forbade the Justice Department from spending money on interfering in the use of medicinal marijuana where states allow it. And today, the country has a state-by-state patchwork of laws and policies, with marijuana remaining illegal at the federal level. Support for legalizing pot recently reached an all-time high (cough, again), with 61% of respondents approving of it in a recent Pew Research Center survey.
Which brings us, of course, to life insurance. If you use marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes, it might affect your application and/or your policy. We can see you have a few questions. So, here are a few answers.
I use marijuana for pleasure. Do I need to disclose that? Why (or why not)?
Yes. You need to be honest about it for the same reason you need to be honest about, say, cigarette smoking or alcohol consumption: These things affect your rates, and failure to disclose them might affect whether your beneficiaries get paid down the road. (And keep in mind, if your application process includes a blood test, your marijuana usage might turn up in the results.) Lying during your application process might disqualify you from coverage—not just from this insurer, but from all major insurers.
Interestingly, how you use it might affect your rate more than whether you use it. According to PBS, 29 percent of insurers classify marijuana users as nonsmokers, potentially allowing you to qualify for a nonsmoker rate, which is typically lower. This might depend on how often you consume marijuana, too.
And get this: Not so long ago, disclosing marijuana use might have disqualified you for coverage altogether. However, for the most part, those days are behind us.
I use marijuana for medical reasons. Do I need to disclose that? Why (or why not)?
Yes. In this sense, pot is like any other medicine. It’s not so much the fact that you’re using it, but the fact that there’s an underlying reason—i.e., the medical condition you are treating—that could affect your rate. As with any other illness, you need to disclose it because it could affect your rates as well as any eventual payout.
Am I putting myself at risk by disclosing that I use marijuana?
Short answer: No. Slightly longer answer: Your medical information is protected by HIPAA, and your potential insurer cannot share your medical information with the police (or your employer) without your permission.
Does it matter if I use marijuana frequently versus infrequently?
Yes. As mentioned above, the amount of times you use marijuana per week might affect whether your insurer considers you a smoker. This varies by insurance company. Also, as with heavy drinking, heavy pot usage might mark you as a higher risk for various maladies and accidents, and therefore result in an increase in your rate.
What about other recreational drugs, legal or not?
If you are abusing an illegal drug, you will likely be denied coverage. (Again, abuse will likely turn up during a blood test in the application process.) Alcohol and tobacco use will not disqualify you from coverage unless it’s significantly above average or there is a history of abuse. You should disclose all medicinal use of drugs during your application.
What if I have been fined or imprisoned for marijuana use / possession?
You’ll need to acknowledge this during your application. (As you’ve probably figured out by now, lying on your application is unwise.) Depending on when this occurred, and what the infraction was, you could potentially be denied coverage or pay a higher rate. Then again, you might not. Transparency is your friend here.
Again, marijuana usage is like anything else when it comes to applying for life insurance. The more honest you are about it with your insurer during the process, the smoother your experience—and your beneficiaries’ experience—will be.
Louis Wilson is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications, both online and in print. He often writes about travel, sports, popular culture, men’s fashion and grooming, and more. He lives in Austin, Texas, where he has developed an unbridled passion for breakfast tacos, with his wife and two children. This article is sponsored by Haven Life Insurance Agency. Opinions are his own.
Haven Life Insurance Agency offers this as educational only, and the information provided is not written or intended as specific legal advice. Haven Life Insurance Agency does not provide legal advice. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own legal counsel.