Terry Zavitz

Terry Zavitz

With the 2014 changes to the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations, and the recent election of Justin Trudeau who included, as an election promise, to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, it appears the road to a liberalized approach (no pun intended) to the use of this drug is opening up. But what are the repercussions from an insurance perspective? The landscape is much more complex in this regard.

Here’s what you need to know:

Using marijuana will affect your cost of insurance: If you use marijuana, whether for medicinal or personal reasons, you are considered a smoker when it comes to applying for individual life or living benefits insurance (disability, critical illness or long term care). It doesn’t matter whether you smoke, vaporize, or ingest it; smoker rates apply and costs are raised accordingly, in fact, often double. Rates can be further increased based on the reason for the use; ie. underlying medical condition in the case of medical use, or amount and frequency of use with regards to both medicinal and recreational use.

It is not covered under drug plans: Medicinal marijuana does not come with a DIN (Drug Identification Number) and does not have the official approval of Health Canada. Therefore, it is not covered as a drug expense under an insured plan. Interestingly, it is considered to be an eligible expense under the Income Tax Act and, therefore, is covered under a Health Care Spending Account.

The use of marijuana in the workplace is questionable: There exists a huge grey area in regards to the permissible use of marijuana in the workplace, especially where there is a zero-tolerance rule in place for drugs and alcohol use due to safety concerns. The answer is further complicated by the employer’s duty to accommodate the health issues of employees.

The insurance industry is continuing to monitor the situation, both in regards to the issuance of individual coverage and that of covering it under a traditional drug plan. In the past, one would have received smoker rates on their policy with even one puff of one joint. Recently, I have had cases in which coverage for insurance was issued on a non-smoker basis as there was only one joint used in the last year. Part of the hesitation and lack of consistency in the industry is due to the fact that there is very little conclusive scientific evidence as to the effectiveness of marijuana from a medicinal point of view and little evidence as to the long terms effects of various usage levels. This is further complicated by inconsistencies of producers and strains grown.

Stay tuned to the ever evolving issues with regards to the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana and how the insurance companies respond to them.