Is marijuana healthy and how does it affect insurance?

Although marijuana is now medically legal in 36 states and non-medically legal in 18 states, the controversy surrounding the drug is far from over.

Marijuana still abounds with controversy on several fronts, and not just health effects such as concerns regarding marijuana smoking and how it compares to other types of smoking.

It’s also causing a multitude of other questions to crop up within local and state governments as well as within several industries, such as insurance.  

When the topic comes to life insurance for marijuana smokers, consumers won’t find one-size-fits-all answers. Just as marijuana legalization varies from state to state, life insurance policy decisions regarding cannabis vary from company to company.

As we review marijuana use from a medical standpoint, we’ll provide tips to better help you navigate the best way to get life insurance while using marijuana.

Marijuana vs. Nicotine

Comparing marijuana and nicotine is a popular debate in regards to medical cannabis use. Many still wonder if there is a difference between smoking marijuana and nicotine products or if they are the same.

Although both nicotine and marijuana elements such as CBD and THC are derived from plants, the effects they have on the body are vastly different.

Nicotine boosts adrenaline, which leads smokers to feel more alert and experience a heightened sense of euphoria for a few hours. That short time period is what typically leads to nicotine dependency: Once the effects fade, users are inclined to increase the frequency and quantity of their nicotine intake.

Adverse health effects of nicotine use include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Hardening of arterial walls
  • Headaches
  • High blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Mood instability
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Tachycardia
  • Tachypnea

With these damaging health side effects, it’s unsurprising that health and life insurance companies consider tobacco users to be a high risk to insure. But don’t assume that you will not be approved for life insurance.

Insurance tips: If you are a tobacco smoker but are considered to be in good physical health, taking a medical exam to qualify for life insurance coverage may be beneficial. Although you smoke, showing your current health status could help receive a more affordable rate.

Life insurance companies don’t see marijuana and nicotine products as being the same. Although it depends on the insurance company, most times a marijuana user will not be charged the same rate as someone who is a nicotine user.

Common Medical Uses of Cannabis

Common conditions that call for cannabis prescriptions include:

  • AIDS
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease)
  • Bladder issues 
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Glaucoma
  • Hepatitis C
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscle spasms
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Seizures
  • Severe nausea

Although medical uses for marijuana have proven to be a beneficial treatment method, there are still risks and downsides to the use of the substance that insurance companies can’t ignore. When used recreationally, marijuana can increase anxiety, reduce coordination, weaken the heart, and diminish bone density. 

Insurance tips: Being denied life insurance coverage had been more prevalent for marijuana smokers in the past. But as the number of states approving legalization has increased, many life insurance companies have reviewed and updated their policies.

In fact, two insurance companies that won’t spike your life insurance rate just because you have a medical marijuana prescription.

With American General, you could qualify for a preferred rating, factoring in your medical history and your needs requiring the prescription. And with Prudential Life, you also could qualify for the preferred rating, with the presumption that you are using the marijuana as it has been prescribed.

Is smoking marijuana bad for my lungs?

Any doctor would agree that smoking in any capacity is harmful to your health. Adverse health effects are why recreational and medical use of all substances that alter our minds and bodies has been debated and regulated for a long time. 

As for taking medical marijuana via smoking, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) points to an Institute of Medicine report warning that smoking marijuana “is a crude THC delivery system that also delivers harmful substances.”

If you are currently using medical marijuana or you are thinking about it, you do not have to necessarily smoke the product. Adverse health risks from smoking can be reduced since medical marijuana comes in a variety of forms.

Can cannabis improve my health?

The answer to this question isn’t a clear yes or no. Cannabis may be beneficial on a case-by-case basis. As with any other medicine, it isn’t right for everyone.

To have the best overall experience with medical marijuana, talk to your primary care physician. Not only do they have the medical expertise to know what has the possibility of being the most beneficial to help with various medical conditions, but they will also be your best source of advice for what may work best specifically for you as well.

Also, if you’re planning to use cannabis products, it’s recommended to avoid tobacco and nicotine-infused products. The combination of the two can increase your risk of premature death and reduce your average life expectancy by 13 years.

You also want to have a detailed consultation with a medical professional as to whether you should try medical marijuana as part of your treatment. While cannabinoid drugs, primarily THC, can help relieve pain, control nausea, and stimulate appetite, their psychological effects could present problems for certain patients and situations. 

Bonus insurance tip: Regardless of what amount and method you are using, and whether or not you live in a legalized state, you should always be honest when applying with a new insurance provider. This will help you avoid claim dismissals or be accused of insurance fraud.

If you’re transparent about your marijuana use, you may not be subject to increased premiums. By specifying the method you use and how frequently you use marijuana, an insurer may consider you as a non-smoker after a negative drug test.

Karen Condor writes and researches for the life insurance comparison site, QuickQuote.com. She is an insurance expert who examines how everyday life can potentially affect one’s financial health.

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