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Canadian Life Insurance Companies Change Stance on Pot Smokers

Maureen Meehan

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Two major life insurance companies in Canada are now treating medical cannabis users as non-smokers, reversing a long-standing policy that forced pot smokers to pay the same premiums as cigarette smokers.

Recognizing that there is little to no comparison between the impact of tobacco versus pot on one’s health, two companies—Sun Life and BMO Insurance—cited recent research that convinced them to change their policies, reported the National Post.

Sun Life’s new policy applies to all MMJ consumers who do not also smoke tobacco, while BMO’s new policy covers recreational users who smoke up to two joints per week.

Not only have users of MMJ been forced to pay huge life insurance policies (often three times higher than non-smokers), in some cases they have been turned down for coverage, said Jonathan Zaid, founder of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana.

“I’ve even heard of (medical marijuana users) who couldn’t get mortgages because they were denied life insurance,” Zaid said.

There is little evidence that long-term pot smoking causes the same type of harm as cigarettes, although the smoke contains many of the same carcinogens as tobacco fumes.

A Canadian study published last year confirmed that even for habitual users, there was no increased risk of lung cancer. Experts say this is likely because cigarette smokers inhale far more of the cancer-causing chemicals on average than pot users.

“It’s great that they’re recognizing that the old policy wasn’t based on science,” Zaid said.

Life insurance broker, Lorne Marr of Toronto’s LSM Insurance, said it’s probable that other insurers will follow Sun Life’s example.

But what about U.S. insurance companies?

It seems companies in the U.S .are still in a state of flux, weighing reasons for and frequency of pot usage.

According to Term Life Insurance Saver, U.S. companies are unlikely to put weed in the same category as harder drugs, but are highly likely to continue to classify pot smokers as they do cigarette smokers.

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