Marijuana Use & Life Insurance: Can cannabis keep you from getting coverage?

If you use marijuana more than twice a month, life insurance companies can rate you as a smoker. The average annual life insurance rate for a smoker is $991.63.

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Schimri Yoyo is a financial advisor with active life and health insurance licenses in seven states. Born in Haiti. Reared in Brockton, MA. Matured in Philadelphia. Schimri is a proud graduate of Arcadia University, having earned both a Masters in Special Education and an MFA in Creative Writing from the castle-riddled campus in Glenside, PA. By personality and by profession, Schimri is an educator...

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UPDATED: Aug 19, 2020

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America’s view on marijuana (also known as cannabis) has come a long way. Since the 1990s, only 24 percent of Americans were in favor of legalization. In 2020, 66 percent support legalizing marijuana. With so much of the population in favor of it, it begs the question: can cannabis keep you from getting coverage?

Is the life insurance industry following along with the general opinion? The question with marijuana use and life insurance is if they can go together. You might be surprised to learn that there are life insurance companies for marijuana users.

So, can cannabis use keep you from getting life insurance coverage? We’ll answer your life insurance questions and cover how marijuana users are treated by life insurance companies.

Ready to start looking for rates? Use our FREE quote tool above to find out what you’ll have to pay for your marijuana use.

Best Life Insurance Companies for Marijuana Users

Most insurers still have a more conservative stance, as is their tradition, even though some 13 million Americans use or smoke marijuana. Since each insurer determines their own underwriting policies, how they view your policy varies from insurer to insurer. That being said, some insurers are coming around to the idea and may not judge your use so harshly.

  • Prudential will give you different rates based on how frequently you use marijuana. If you use up to six times a week, you can still get a policy with smoker rates. If you use under the age of 21 or don’t tell the insurer you use, you will automatically be declined.
  • Metlife will allow you to smoke marijuana up to four times a week while still giving you a policy without classifying you as a smoker or charging you higher rates. They will even take a look at how you use, either smoking or edibles.
  • Forester Financial will give you non-smoker rates so long as you use less than six times a week. As long as you don’t have any other underwriting issues, you can use almost daily without any worry about it affecting your policy. They also offer scholarships and volunteer opportunities for their clients.
  • Global Atlantic Life will almost never judge you for your marijuana use outside of a few circumstances. If you are under 25 and you use recreationally, you will be denied. However, you can use up to three times daily in your late 20s to get normal rates.

Those 30 and up will be able to use daily without the fear of it affecting your policy. If you use medicinally, you will be underwritten for your medical condition as opposed to marijuana usage.

Other companies offer lenient or average marijuana use, and an insurance agent will best be able to help you find the perfect insurer for your needs.

Sample Life Insurance Rates

So, what would the rates look like if you smoke or use marijuana? That all depends on a variety of factors of which we’ll get into later on, but for now, here are some sample average rates for males and females to give you an idea of what life insurance companies offer to smokers.

Average Annual Rates of Top 10 Life Insurers by Market Share
Policy Holder Age and Tobacco UseAverage Annual Rates: MaleAverage Annual Rates: Female
25-Year-Old Non-Smoker$178.54$160.57
25-Year-Old Smoker$321.76$248.75
35-Year-Old Non-Smoker$165.91$178.54
35-Year-Old Smoker$286.18$321.76
45-Year-Old Non-Smoker$185.04$165.91
45-Year-Old Smoker$360.23$286.18
55-Year-Old Non-Smoker$240.25$185.04
55-Year-Old Smoker$493.20$360.23
65-Year-Old Non-Smoker$267.89$240.25
65-Year-Old Smoker$637.51$493.20
Average Non-Smoker$406.94$267.89
Average Smoker$991.63$637.51
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Now, let’s discuss what all affects those average rates and what your options are if you smoke or use marijuana and want a life insurance policy.

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Can you get life insurance if you smoke or use marijuana?

marijuana and life insurance can get along. It depends on where you live, why you’re using it, and how often.

Even though most states have enacted laws legalizing marijuana in some form, federally, it is still illegal and classified as a Schedule I drug. This is the highest of five federal classifications of drugs based on their acceptable medical use and supposed potential for abuse or dependency.

According to the DEA, “Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Heroin, LSD, ecstasy, methaqualone, and peyote are also on this list.

Possessing marijuana is also a federal offense that can result in a misdemeanor, $1,000 fine, and a mandatory minimum sentence of one year. The penalties vary depending on the offense, amount, and whether you’re cultivating or selling it.

And that’s just federal. Several states still have very strict laws. For example, in Arizona, possession of any amount of marijuana is a felony.

Disclosing marijuana use to your insurance company won’t land you in jail. Your underwriter isn’t going to rat you out. They already have enough paperwork to deal with. (Getting prospective customers jail time wouldn’t be good for business, either.) They just want to want to get a holistic view of you as a person.

What life insurance underwriting does is measure risk (see guidelines here: life insurance underwriting guidelines). They’ll need to know the following information to determine how risky you are to insure and if they can offer you a life insurance policy at all.

  • Where do you live? Do you live in a state where marijuana is legalized?
  • Why are you using marijuana? Is this for recreation or medical purposes?
  • How often are you using marijuana? Are you using it a couple of times a month, or are you waking and baking?

The answers to these questions can drastically change your eligibility or rates.

Legal & Decriminalized Marijuana States

There are a select few insurers that will give you a policy no matter how much you use. Otherwise, insurers may classify you with smoker rates based on your use. More conservative insurers will not give you a policy at all if you use marijuana recreationally.

Sometimes it also depends on any underlying risks or other factors that come up while the underwriting is reviewing your policy.

If you have a lung condition or something else that is negatively impacted by smoking or consuming marijuana, then your insurer is much more likely to look negatively upon your usage.

If it’s legal in your state and you use it medicinally, the insurer can’t discriminate or apply it to your policy. They will instead focus on the condition for which you use.

Illegal Marijuana States

When you’re smoking or using vape products in a state where there is no regulation, you are more likely to get something that might have foreign substances in it.

In fact, several illnesses and even a few deaths have occurred from additives placed inside black-market THC vape cartridges.

If you have any criminal history, such as possession or DUI, your insurer will not look favorably upon your use. You will most likely face higher premiums if they will give you a policy at all.

Don’t fret about disclosing it with your insurer, as they won’t report you. Your information that comes up during underwriting is completely private between you and the insurance company.

How Life Insurance Companies Determine Your Rates

Insurers will use a process called underwriting to determine the risk you pose when applying for a life insurance policy. The more likely you are to die before they can make a profit, the higher you can expect to pay on your premiums.

An insurance underwriter will look at your hobbies, your occupation, and your medical history to determine the likelihood that you will die during the length of the policy. You may even be subject to a physical and bloodwork depending on your age and other risk factors. Here’s what you can expect if the underwriter asks you to undergo a medical exam.

what do life insurance companies test for in underwriting infographic

It’s the best practice to get a policy while you’re still on the younger side so you can have a painless underwriting experience with no new surprises.

Do you need to tell your life insurance company about your marijuana use?

Don’t lie on your life insurance application. If you’re caught, the consequences can be severe for your beneficiaries. They could find themselves without a death benefit should the claim on your policy be denied based on this omitted information.

You won’t get into any legal trouble for disclosing your marijuana use on your life insurance application.

Therefore, it’s in your best interest to be honest with your life insurance agent, and you can ask questions before you even start the application.

If you don’t mention that you’re a marijuana user, insurance companies have other ways of finding out. Your life insurance company may require a drug test as part of your life insurance physical exam (learn more about the paramedical exam here: What to Expect From a Life Insurance Medical Exam). And be careful if you use CBD oil. A Johns Hopkins study shows that some CBD products may produce a positive marijuana result in drug tests.

If you’ve been prescribed medical marijuana, it may show up in your medical or prescription records, even if you go the no-medical exam life insurance route. Your physician may note it in a statement.

How do life insurance companies view medical marijuana?

For starters, they start with the facts like in this video:

Life insurance companies also know what medical marijuana does wonders for thousands of people who use it to treat a variety of conditions. When applying for life insurance, underwriting may be more concerned with the underlying medical condition requiring the marijuana treatment than the prescription itself.

Having a prescription for medical marijuana can be an indicator that something more serious is going on with your health. A 2015 marijuana whitepaper from one of the largest reinsurers in the world, Munich RE, provides more insight into why. (Note: A reinsurer is a company that provides final protection to insurance companies.)

Risk Management Consultant Gary Haddow writes, “the reason it is being prescribed must be identified and the mortality and/or morbidity implications related to that impairment understood, as the risk may be uninsurable at the outset.”

In other words, based on your health, what is your life expectancy? What are the chances that you’ll die soon?

If you don’t meet life insurance underwriting guidelines because of a high-risk condition (like cancer or heart disease), a medical marijuana prescription won’t make any difference.

The insurance company will also look for signs of potential abuse, like seeing multiple doctors, refilling too frequently, whether you also use marijuana or other drugs recreationally, and more.

But ultimately, it depends on the insurance company’s life insurance risk assessment to offer you life insurance. Haddow continues, “If all the factors are favorable and the underlying impairment can be priced appropriately, according to your guidelines, then an offer is warranted.”

Life Insurance Rating Class by Level of Risk

Rating ClassLevel of RiskPolicy Premium
PreferredLowLeast Expensive
StandardAverageAverage
Sub-StandardHighMost Expensive
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If you’re a medical marijuana user in good health, you may still qualify for Preferred insurance rates. For example, here are the medical marijuana underwriting guidelines for two life insurance companies QuickQuote works with:

  • American General – Could qualify for Preferred rating. The decision will be based on medical history requiring the marijuana prescription.
  • Prudential Life – Could qualify for Preferred rating presuming marijuana is used as prescribed and if otherwise qualified for coverage.

Similarly to medical marijuana use, the insurance company will want to know more about your recreational habits. Some allow limited use.

Of those that do allow it, you may or may not be rated as a tobacco user — paying on average twice more than nonsmokers. How do insurance companies rate recreational marijuana use?

The underwriter will want to know more about the frequency, the quantity, how you’re using it, and whether this is a sign of high risk. Are there signs of abusing alcohol or other drugs? Are there concerning things about your lifestyle?

“If abuse or multiple hazards associated with marijuana use are identified, the risk will likely be unacceptable,” says Haddow.

If you’re an infrequent recreational marijuana user in good health, you may qualify for the best insurance rates depending on the frequency of use. Not all life insurance companies publish their underwriting guidelines for recreational use, but we’ve found these general guidelines are used by several companies:

Life Insurance Company A Marijuana Underwriting Usage Guide

Frequency of UseRating Class
Up to two times per yearBest rating class if otherwise qualified
Up to two times per monthStandard non-tobacco rating is possible
More than two times per monthTobacco rating, and may be rated Table B* or higher
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*Table B is a filed under a type of life insurance called substandard rating class.

Life Insurance Company B Marijuana Underwriting Usage Guide

Frequency of UseRating Class
Up to four times per monthPreferred non-tobacco rating is possible
Five to eleven times per monthStandard non-tobacco rating is possible
Twelve to sixteen times per monthStandard tobacco rating is possible
Daily useWill be declined
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As you can see, insurance companies can vary on their guidelines from more lenient to more conservative.

Life Insurance Company C Marijuana Underwriting Usage Guide

Frequency of UseRating Class
Up to one per monthPreferred Plus non-tobacco prating is possible
Up to two times per monthPreffered non-tobacco rating is possible
Up to three times per week or twelve per monthStandard non-tobacco rating is possible
Daily useWill be declined
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You will find more companies that will decline or penalize you for daily use than will allow it to go unchecked.

What to Do If You Get Denied Life Insurance

It all comes down to the life insurance company’s discretion, as you’ll see in the following video.

However, if you use marijuana medicinally, meaning it was prescribed by your doctor, you can challenge the decision. You should know that, more often than not, your insurer will underwrite based on the medical condition you use for, and not marijuana use.

If you use recreationally, you may want to slow your use to something that the insurer will view as more favorable. Otherwise, take a look at one of the companies mentioned above for a policy that is more friendly towards your use.

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About Marijuana (Types of Use and Your Health)

Before you apply for a policy, you should know what to expect in terms of how marijuana affects your health and how it is viewed by the public and your insurer.

For instance, the difference between medicinal and recreational marijuana use will cause the insurer to view your case drastically different. If you have any underlying conditions and you use it recreationally, you may be qualified as a smoker or face higher rates depending on how much you use.

Public Opinion of Marijuana

From 2010 onward, we’ve seen public opinion regarding marijuana do full turnaround from greatly opposed to a more positive opinion about its use under the right circumstances. We can even expect more states to legalize it.

Because of the variety of medicinal uses, everything from epilepsy to muscular deterioration can be helped or treated by using marijuana. Videos have been shared across the web showing the relief of symptoms.

Additionally, marijuana and hemp products have revitalized farming communities across America that were otherwise falling to the wayside. This has also brought a lot of rural populations to think favorably of the plant, a stark contrast from 10 years ago.

Another contribution to the more positive viewpoint is the increased profit from the tax on marijuana sales.

Many states put the tax toward schools and public welfare projects, which have flourished since its legalization. Schools have even been built purely off the tax from marijuana sales, with some states bolstering its tax revenue by millions of dollars.

Marijuana use is now shifted and can be found in every demographic, shown in the chart below.

Marijuana Use by Age

Age Range Percentage Marijuana Users
18–29 22%
30–49 11%
50–64 12%
65+ 3%
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Surprisingly, those between the age of 50 and 64 are the second-largest demographic of users, and they used to be the main opponents of the drug.

Medicinal Use of Marijuana

Medical marijuana can help with a variety of medical conditions, and many people have seen the effects firsthand. Whether it be used for cancer or pain treatment in place of opioids, it has helped a variety of Americans find a treatment that might otherwise not be readily available.

For some, it can be prescribed to help with severe depression, anxiety, and eating disorders that would otherwise go untreated or would be treated with varying medications.

Because of this, most states have encouraged medicinal legalization even if they oppose recreational legalization.

Something else: insurers and medical professionals legally can’t discriminate against medicinal use. So if you have proof of your prescription, it won’t be considered on your policy.

Recreational Use of Marijuana

While it may be true that recreational marijuana use is viewed less favorably than medicinal use, more people, including insurers, are beginning to come around to the idea. Some insurers will still give you a policy if you use recreationally.

There are even a few companies that have warmed up to the idea of its policyholders using marijuana and won’t give you higher rates for almost daily smoking sessions.

That being said, depending on your use, you can also face higher premiums as a Preferred or Non-Preferred Smoker. If you use daily, your insurer will most likely deny you a policy.

So long as you don’t use daily, most insurers will give you some kind of policy. This also depends on any underlying risks that might affect your health if you choose to use marijuana.

How Marijuana Use Affects Your Health

It’s well known and documented that marijuana can help with pain and can encourage you to eat. But what is often overlooked are the negative effects it can have if you have underlying conditions.

Those effects are also different depending on what kind of products you use. For instance, smoking ground-up marijuana can harm your lungs in ways similar to tobacco, albeit with fewer chemicals. Inhaling the smoke can upset asthma or cause you to cough heavily, upsetting other underlying risks.

Using THC oil vape products is an option that is a little easier on the lungs than the straight plant. However, the FDA has issued a warning that the only THC vape products that should be consumed are those from legal distributors.

Illegal manufacturers have been adding things to them that are harmful if inhaled and, according to the CDC, have caused widespread lung disease and death among young people across the nation.

If you currently have any black market THC vape products, you should throw them away to keep yourself from getting sick or worse.

Other options are edibles or extracts that can be used in a drink or taken orally. This is an alternative option for those who can’t smoke or use vape products due to underlying lung problems or other problems that prevent taking it by inhaling.

Medical Uses of Marijuana

Medical marijuana and its capabilities have helped a lot of Americans get the support they need in instances where there might be more unsavory treatment or no options at all.

Some of the ailments that can be treated by medical marijuana include:

  • Chronic pain (As opposed to using opioids)
  • Anxiety, eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia
  • Muscle sclerosis, muscle spasms
  • Seizures

While an insurer might recognize that there are risks to marijuana use, most of these diagnoses would cause much more harm to your premiums if they were left untreated, thus medical marijuana is not discriminated against when an insurer is underwriting a policy.

Instead, they will look at the more serious conditions that you treat with medical marijuana. For instance, if you have cancer and use marijuana to treat nausea from chemo, your insurer probably won’t be looking at your marijuana use.

This is no different than if you weren’t using marijuana and still had the condition.

Health Risks of Marijuana Use

As discussed previously, the risk that marijuana can have on your health depends heavily on the type of product you use and any underlying conditions that you suffer from.

With all THC products, there is a small but noticeable chance (10 percent) you will become addicted while using the product. If you use daily, you may be barred from a policy depending on your state and the insurer.

If you have any lung conditions, smoking marijuana can harm you or create more problems for your lungs that will look bad during your life insurance physical.

If you smoke or take THC and get behind the wheel, you are very likely to face a DUI when you get pulled over. Or worse, due to the slower reaction time, you may crash your car and have to pay the ultimate price.

If you have any DUIs on your record, the insurer will look negatively on that, and you may be restricted from getting a policy altogether.

That being said, it’s best to be upfront and honest with your insurer, because otherwise, you can face higher premiums or be declined from the policy for your dishonesty.

Marijuana & Life Insurance: The Bottom Line

It can be intimidating to look for life insurance if you partake in this illicit activity. But if you’re easy on the weed and in good health, you’ll likely have some options available. Don’t let fear keep you from applying for life insurance.

Ready to apply? Use our FREE quote tool below to find your rates!

Marijuana & Life Insurance FAQs

Whether you are in a legal or illegal state, there are bound to be some questions that you have about the options available with your marijuana usage.

#1 – Will my insurer report me to the police in an illegal state?

No, your underwriting is a medical evaluation and can’t be shared with anyone besides you and your insurer. There would also be no benefit for the insurer if they reported you, so you can apply for your policy without any worry about getting in trouble for your use.

#2 – How do insurers test for marijuana usage?

During the underwriting process, you will be subject to a physical exam from an insurer-approved doctor. During this process, they make take a blood or urine sample to test for any substances or diseases that appear in your blood. Based on the level of THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, the insurer will be able to infer how much marijuana you use.

Marijuana will be detectable in your urine for up to a month, depending on your physical attributes. It will stay in your blood for hours and is used to test for short term use. It’s best to be honest with your insurer, as it will affect your policy worse than if you admit that you use marijuana.

#3 – How can medical marijuana use affect my policy?

While using medical marijuana itself won’t be judged by your insurer, the underlying implications will be. Your insurer will underwrite you based on whatever you’re using marijuana to treat.

However, this is hardly different than what they would do anyway when reviewing your medical records. For instance, if you have epilepsy, your insurer would still look at whether you treated it with marijuana or not.

It’s best to be honest with your insurer about your marijuana use and any medical conditions that you live with.

#4 – Who should avoid marijuana use?

Marijuana has been shown to have negative impacts if you use it as a coping mechanism and if you start too young. In fact, although the current legal age to use is 21, most insurers won’t give you a policy if you’re under 25 and using recreationally.

If you have a history of severe mental illness, you could experience some bad feelings. Getting high can sometimes cause you to think of things that might make you upset. Remember to use responsibly and only when you feel safe.

Ready to start looking for rates based on how often you use? Use our FREE quote tool below to find out what you’ll have to pay.

References

  1. https://news.gallup.com/poll/240932/snapshot-one-four-young-adults-marijuana.aspx
  2. http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-medical-marijuana-laws.aspx
  3. https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/vaping-illness-update-fda-warns-public-stop-using-tetrahydrocannabinol-thc-containing-vaping
  4. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html
  5. https://content.naic.org/cipr_topics/topic_cannabis_and_insurance.htm
  6. https://www.dea.gov/drug-scheduling
  7. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/newsroom/news-releases/some-cbd-products-may-yield-cannabis-positive-urine-drug-tests

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