Heath Alseike

Two Canadian Life Insurers Stop Treating Cannabis Users as ‘Smokers’

Sun Life and BMO Insurance have reversed their long-standing policies on treating cannabis smokers the same as “tobacco smokers,” instead they will allow some marijuana users to be treated as non-smokers for life insurance policies.

Sun Life’s policy applies to cannabis consumers who do not use tobacco; BMO’s policy applies to non-tobacco smokers who consume up to two “marijuana cigarettes” per week, according to the National Post report.

“In our industry, we keep up to date with medical studies and companies update their underwriting guidelines accordingly,” Sun Life said in a statement announcing the change. “As a result, people who use marijuana are now assessed … at non-smoker rates, unless they also use tobacco.”

Until the change people who disclosed they only smoked cannabis were charged the same rates as tobacco smokers, which could be triple the rates of non-smokers.

Jonathan Zaid, founder of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, says the moves change the “huge discrepancy” in the way some medical cannabis patients were being treated while trying to get life insurance.

“It’s great that they’re recognizing that the old policy wasn’t based on science,” he said. “There’s no evidence that there is any long-term risk of cancer or anything equivalent to tobacco.”

Research shows that while marijuana smoke contains many of the same carcinogens as tobacco, there is little evidence of an increased risk for lung cancer in even habitual cannabis smokers.

Lorne Marr, broker of LSM Insurance, says his competitors are “trying to get an edge on other companies” as the number of Canadians who admit to using marijuana grows. Typically, a 20-year term, $500,000 policy with LSM costs smokers $148 per-month but just $53 a month for non-smokers. Marr expects other companies to follow suit.

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