Editor's Note: This post was originally published on the Ash Brokerage blog in 2015. To date, it's the most popular post on our website. Why? We think it's because our underwriters aren’t afraid to discuss a challenging and potentially taboo topic that's becoming relevant to more of your clients every single day. The piece below has been updated to reflect changes since the original was posted. If you have any questions or concerns about underwriting, don't be afraid to ask our team! They'll always find an answer.
Marijuana use is a hot and evolving topic in life insurance underwriting. For those of us who’ve been around the insurance block a time or two, we can certainly remember the days when any type of marijuana use resulted in an automatic decline. Today, the answer isn’t so cut and dry.
To understand the topic, look at today's legal treatment of marijuana:*
As of March 2018, 29 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, have laws that legalize marijuana in some form
Nine states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Vermont – as well as D.C., have adopted the most liberal laws, which legalize marijuana for recreation use
Several more states are either considering legislation or potential ballot measures in 2018
In recent years, our industry has increased acceptance of applicants using marijuana recreationally and for medicinal purposes. We have seen offers from best class nonsmoker to decline.
Minimal use is acceptable with some carriers; while moderate to daily use may result in a decline. Multiple factors impact risk assessment for applicants using marijuana, including:
Amount and frequency of marijuana used
Method of delivery into the body
Underlying condition for which marijuana was prescribed
Other potentially related factors: avocations, driving record and occupation
Some carriers will offer smoker rate classes to an applicant who smokes marijuana, while others will offer nonsmoker rates if use is minimal and potentially preferred rates if the client otherwise qualifies.
Applicants with a valid marijuana prescription to treat symptoms of an impairment may be assessed an additional rating for their impairment. Certain impairments or co-morbid conditions will result in an automatic decline, even if the applicant has a valid prescription or lives in a state which has legalized recreational marijuana.
Applicants with a history of alcohol or drug treatments, or applicants currently using multiple recreational drugs, are considered an unfavorable risk. Likewise, applicants with significant mood disorders and past criminal activity are also considered unfavorable.
Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, can be derived from hemp or marijuana. CBD products created from marijuana have very high levels of THC, therefore applicants using CBD products created with marijuana will fall under the carrier’s guideline for marijuana use. Applicants using CBD products produced from hemp will not be considered as marijuana users.
Other things to note for underwriting:
Today’s insurance labs cannot measure quantity of use, nor how the marijuana was delivered into the body
Some carriers automatically test for marijuana, while others will reflex the test as deemed necessary
Most carriers will request an attending physician statement (APS) and/or copy of the valid prescription for applicants being treated with medical marijuana
Marijuana sales remain illegal at the federal level, but the marijuana industry is growing like a very profitable weed. According to Tom Adams, managing director of BDS Analytics, national marijuana sales will rise to $11 billion in 2018, and to $21 billion in 2021.*
With the federal government still viewing marijuana sales as illegal, almost every insurance carrier will not offer insurance on any employee of a marijuana farm or dispensary, or owners of farms or dispensaries. As of today, only a small handful of traditional life insurance carriers will consider select clients on an individual basis for personal coverage only.
Since there are so many variables influencing the underwriting decision for both recreational and medical marijuana users, it’s impossible to recommend a carrier without having all the facts. The good news is at Ash Brokerage, you have a dedicated staff of seasoned underwriters available to answer your questions regarding marijuana usage and assist you every step of the way. We’d welcome the opportunity to talk with you about your client’s specific needs.
Additionally, the Ash Brokerage website has numerous impairment questionnaires, including a marijuana questionnaire, which are useful in evaluating medical, financial or avocation risk. They’ll help you uncover potential issues before collecting a formal application, and ensure your call with your Ash underwriter is productive.
For more than 34 years, Charlie Kuhn has taken a personal interest in every case. To her, it’s more than a file – it’s a person trying to protect the people they care about, and she can think of no better vocation than to help provide financial and emotional security for others. Through her personal commitment to continuous professional growth, Charlie is one test away from becoming an Associate of the Life Management Institute. She is already an Associate of Customer Service with LOMA, has passed all three of the Academy of Life Underwriting exams, and is certified in EKG interpretation.
Ash Brokerage Questionnaire: http://go.ashbrokerage.com/WC2018-04-UW-8151_LP-Content.html
*CNN Money, “The U.S. legal marijuana industry is booming,” Jan. 31, 2018: http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/31/news/marijuana-state-of-the-union/index.html
© 2018 Ash Brokerage LLC.