By Eric Goldschein
Though it’s increasingly legal, marijuana can still raise red flags for life insurance companies. While some insurers don’t mind covering you if you use pot, others will charge you higher rates or deny your application outright.
About 22.2 million Americans use marijuana every month, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s now legal for medical use in 36 states and for recreational use in 15, as well as for both in Washington, D.C.
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who use marijuana and you’re looking for a life insurance policy, you can probably find coverage. You may need to shop around, however, as companies don’t view the risks that weed poses to long-term health in the same way.
Can Marijuana Users Get Life Insurance?
In a word, yes, you can get life insurance if you use marijuana. In fact, life insurance may not cost more for some marijuana users than for those who don’t use it at all — depending on the insurance company and other factors.
Every insurer measures risk differently. Most consider factors like age, gender, weight and family health history. Some may look at your hobbies, such as mountain climbing or skydiving. Your history of drug use, whether marijuana or otherwise, can also come into play.
If you use marijuana, companies will likely consider how often and why you use it, according to Quotacy, a Minneapolis-based life insurance brokerage. If there’s a medical reason, the insurer will want to know about the condition you’re treating.
Because each company has different standards, you may need to research several insurers before you find one willing to cover you at a reasonable price. You can also work with a life insurance broker or agent who is experienced with marijuana use and can shop the market for you.
How Do Life Insurance Companies View Marijuana Use?
When applying for coverage, you’ll have to answer questions about your lifestyle and in many cases take a life insurance medical exam that may include drug testing.
“Keep in mind, if the application process includes a blood test, the marijuana usage might turn up in the results,” said Adam Weinberg, brand director for Haven Life Insurance, in an email.
Be sure to tell the truth about your use before taking your test. Lying on a life insurance application can result in an automatic decline for coverage. You also run the risk of your insurer refusing to pay your death benefit to your loved ones if it finds out later that you lied on your application.
When you apply for life insurance as a marijuana user, there are three potential outcomes:
- You’re declined outright.
- You’re approved at a tobacco rate, even if you don’t use tobacco. Rates for cigarette smokers and other tobacco users are typically several times higher than what a healthy applicant who doesn’t use tobacco might pay.
- You’re approved at a non-tobacco rate.
While some studies have shown marijuana to be less harmful to the lungs than tobacco smoke, smoking is still smoking — meaning it’s less healthy than not smoking at all. And even if you don’t smoke but choose to vape or eat your weed, the jury is still out on how bad it is for you long-term.
“We don’t have a crystal-clear vision of how marijuana affects mortality because it has been illegal, so getting people to admit it — and doing the studies that an actuary needs — have been challenging,” says Jeremy Hallett, CEO of Quotacy.
How Will Marijuana Use Affect Your Rates?
When insurers decide whether to sell you a policy and how much to charge, they generally don’t consider whether marijuana is illegal where you live, Hallett says — but they do pay attention to how often you indulge. Occasional use of pot may not affect your rate much, if at all, while more frequent use could lead to higher premiums or even a denial.
Chris Abrams of Marijuana Life Insurance, an independent agency in San Diego, provided sample rates to show how typical marijuana habits can affect monthly insurance premiums. Abrams’ hypothetical applicant is a 30-year-old man, in excellent health, applying for a $500,000, 30-year term life policy.
- Never uses marijuana: $30 a month.
- Twice a year: $31.
- Once or twice a week: $55.
- Two to three times a week: $62.
- Four times a week: $126.
- Six times a week: $166.
The breaking point appears to be more than six times a week for recreational users. Very few insurance carriers will offer standard, non-tobacco rates to daily pot users, according to Hallett.
For most companies, Abrams says, “daily use is a ‘decline.'”
Does Using Marijuana Mean You’ll Lose Your Life Insurance?
If you already have life insurance and you decide to give marijuana a try, don’t worry — it won’t affect an existing policy.
“Once you’re underwritten at a point in time for your insurance, that is your rate,” Hallett says. “The carrier can’t come back and raise your rates. You’re good to go.”
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Eric Goldschein writes for NerdWallet. Email: email@example.com.