Tom Blackwell | May 29, 2016 7:23 PM ET
In a new sign of marijuana’s growing normalization in Canada, a major life insurance company has decided to treat cannabis users as non-smokers, reversing a long-standing policy and offering the group far cheaper premiums.
Like its competitors, Sun Life has for years classified anyone who disclosed using marijuana — either recreationally or for medical purposes — as a smoker, saddling them with charges that could be triple those of non-smokers.
But in a message to brokers last week, the company said the latest research on the drug’s health impacts convinced it to change that approach.
“In our industry, we keep up to date with medical studies and companies update their underwriting guidelines accordingly,” Sun Life said in a statement Friday. “As a result, people who use marijuana are now assessed … at non-smoker rates, unless they also use tobacco.”
In our industry, we keep up to date with medical studies and companies update their underwriting guidelines accordingly
The change comes as cannabis is increasingly accepted as a medicine for various ailments, and the federal government prepares to legalize recreational possession as well.
Sun Life’s decision was likely motivated by what would have been an unthinkable factor for a legitimate corporation in the past: a burgeoning market of Canadians who admit to using marijuana, said broker Lorne Marr of Toronto’s LSM Insurance.
“They’re trying to get an edge on the other companies,” he suggested. “I don’t think they’re just trying to lower consumers’ premiums.”
The head of a patient advocacy organization hailed the new policy as an important breakthrough, saying the insurance issue has been a “huge concern.”