If you smoke pot, what happens to a life insurance physical?

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Q. When you apply for life insurance that needs a physical, do they check for pot use? What else do they look at?
— Asking for a friend

A. We’re glad to see you’re trying to be an educated consumer.

And with many states legalizing recreational marijuana use, it’s important to see how insurance companies will look at this.

A life insurance company will routinely require blood, urine and sometimes other requirements in order for it to have enough information about a prospective insured to make a sound underwriting decision, said Ed Gaelick, a Chartered Life Underwriter and Chartered Financial Consultant with PSI Consultants in Glen Rock.

He said the labs expose known and unknown health issues.

“They also expose several markers for drug use, not just marijuana,” he said. “Other things they look for through the blood and urine would be cholesterol levels, infections, blood disorders, HIV, hepatitis, nicotine, marijuana, cocaine, sugar — unsuspected diabetes — and more.”

Gaelick said most insurance companies are okay with marijuana use provided its use is infrequent or recreational. Daily use or frequent use will delay approval and possibly result in a decline, he said.

“Insurance companies do consider lifestyle choices in their decisions. So a rock climber, automobile racer, skydiver, scuba diver will face challenges getting approval at standard rates, if at all,” he said.

So when you talk to an insurance company, the best advice is to be honest.

“And if marijuana use is recreational, say so, but the urine best not test positive for THC,” he said. “A positive reading would imply more than infrequent use.”

He compared it to nicotine use. If you say you smoke a cigar at celebratory events only and you test positive for nicotine, you’ll get smoker rates and they’ll dig deeper on what else you weren’t truthful with, even if there was an innocent omission, he said.

Other illegal drug detection will almost always result in a decline, Gaelick said. And once declined, it’s on your “record” and that will make future applications really problematic.

“When applying for insurance, be smart with consumption — food, liquid, other — and time the exam so you don’t get caught with an innocent timing conflict,” he said. “Also work with an experienced broker that knows all the insurance companies as they all do not underwrite the same. Some are more tolerant towards marijuana, occasional cigar, etc.”

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This story was originally published on Aug. 3, 2020.

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