Pot Essentials & Potentials

October 22, 2018 by Greg Jizmejian

 

Weed, ganja, grass, or pot. No matter what you call it, marijuana is now legal in Canada. How does that impact your Life Insurance? You may be surprised at the answer.

About 2 years before the legalization of marijuana, or should we say the normalization of marijuana, major insurers like Manulife, Empire Life, Great West Life and Sun Life relaxed their rules. Formerly, even a single joint in the prior 12 months was assessed as a “smoker”. This translated to premium payments that were often 50% to 100% higher than the average healthy non-smoking individual.

Why the change? There was pressure from the industry based on trends in the US, but much of it can be attributed to a coordinated effort by a group of marijuana proponents who presented the scientific benefits of pot use. They also showed that the effects of nicotine posed significantly higher risks than pot. So much so that mixing tobacco in your joint still attracts smoker rates, but pure pot gets a free pass…well, almost.

Before you get carried away and light up, you should know a few things about how insurers see things. Most of them have defined these relaxed rules to apply to “occasional users”. Defining that can be quite different from one insurance company to the next, so working with a broker who can navigate these rules is important.

Medicinal use of marijuana has been legal for some time now. How are these individuals looked at? The real answer is “it depends”. Perhaps an analogy is the best way to explain it. If you take baby aspirins daily because your doctor recommended it, an insurer has no issues with the long-term use of these tablets (although stomach ulcers may be a by-product). They will be far more worried about the underlying heart condition or risk of stroke your family physician prescribed it in the first place. Hence medicinal marijuana use itself may not be a problem but the health reasons for your dependence can be.

Naturally there are some who have existing policies issued as smokers that may now qualify for non-smoker rates. There could be the possibility of great savings, but don’t just discard those old plans too quickly. Work with a professional Insurance Advisor to assess your needs, understand your options and carefully make changes if warranted. Always fully disclose your actual use of pot on any insurance application. And whatever you decide to do, do it responsibly.

Greg Jizmejian is the Founder & Sr. Advisor of Curate Wealth™, a boutique wealth advisory service focussed on understanding you and developing a tailor-fitted plan – so you can enjoy life.