Why two Canadian life insurers now treating Cannabis users as non-smokers is a big deal.

In a news release on Tuesday, two major life insurance companies in Canada, Sun Life and BMO Insurance, announced that they will now treat Cannabis users as “non-smokers,” potentially paving the way for other insurers to follow suit.

At the time of this writing, I am currently a licensed life insurance agent in the state of Colorado (#368981), and so I thought this is an interesting topic that doesn’t get covered very often in the cannabis industry news, but I dealt with regularly before getting into the Cannabis industry. A piece of the Prohibition pie that causes unseen harm to individuals all over the country.

For anyone that is unfamiliar with the processes of life insurance, many times you have to go through a process called “underwriting” in which you complete medical questionnaires, receive a physical, as well as give blood and urine samples to an insurer to determine if they can provide you coverage.

The large majority of insurers, when finding out through the underwriting process that you use marijuana (regardless of whether it’s medical or recreational), they will label you a “smoker.” Doesn’t matter if you vaporize, eat edibles, or use concentrates, you are considered a smoker in the eyes of the insurance company. This means a few things I will get into next, but it’s not positive for you.

This underwriting decision is also loaded into the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) database, and is on your medical records for the rest of your life that you tested positive for marijuana in applying for life insurance. Even if you don’t accept the policy, it’s still on your record, and insurers down the road will ask you questions about this in the future if you apply elsewhere.

Receiving a “smoker” rating from your insurance company immediately will get you higher premium rates, that can range from 20%-30%, sometimes even 50% higher than a non-smoking rating. It limits the coverage you can get, and for most people on a budget, it ruins the plans of having enough life insurance to cover you and your family.

The reasons that most insurers decide not to deal with Cannabis users in a factual based way is that marijuana is still federally illegal, and they are basing their decisions based on that flawed scheduling. The Schedule I rating for Marijuana prevents research from being done, and as a result large institutions base their business decisions on bad science. Just like banks have given the Cannabis industry the cold shoulder when it comes to investments and holding their cash, insurance companies are also hesitant to do so with citizens looking to protect their investments, loved ones, and their health.

Many of the policies that are available through life insurance companies have provisions that allow you to use the death benefit (ie. They payout beneficiaries get when you die) while you’re alive to cover health expenses if you get a terminal illness or a critical illness like a heart attack. If you get a “smoker” rating, even if you vaporize or eat edibles, you are either no longer going to get access to those benefits, or have them severely reduced.

A “Smoker” designation will also end up affecting the health insurance rates of the individual as well because, you guessed it, the information that was put into the MIB is also available to health insurers when you complete a HIPAA form. All of these downsides are due to the federal government not liking your method of relaxing, or how you medicate yourself, and it touches many more parts of our lives than we realize.

It appears Sun Life and BMO have taken a real look at the actual science emerging behind Cannabis and changing their business decisions accordingly. Good to see companies that can understand that the environment of society changes, and that maybe a more sympathetic, informed response is better than the cold, propaganda-based business decisions of the past.

Jordan Bentle is the Digital Marketing Chief for Chiefton Supply Co., and the Social Media Manager for General Cannabis Corporation in Denver, Colorado.


Chiefton Supply Co. creates Cannabis inspired art apparel, as well as provides design, and branding services to Cannabis businesses. For more information and set up a consultation contact. Jacob@chieftonsupply.com