How medical marijuana could impact insurance

Oklahoma voters recently approved a state question related to medical marijuana. That approval prompted the formation of the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, and applications are now being accepted from patients, caregivers, and businesses.

But what does it mean for the insurance industry in Oklahoma? We’ve already had multiple conversations with insurance carriers, businesses, and individuals about the impact this might have on insurance products in our state. The answer is we don’t really know the full impact yet, but we can point to a few areas of potential change.

Emerging market for insurance coverage

Medical marijuana distributors are a business like any other, and they want to protect their business with the right insurance products. We’ve received multiple phone calls from distributors and dispensaries asking about commercial insurance products to cover their business. We’ve also talked to a few investors who plan to invest in the medical marijuana industry. They, of course, want to make sure their investment is secure and that the individual businesses they support are able to obtain adequate commercial insurance coverage.

Potential impact on workers’ compensation insurance

Let’s say that Johnny has a prescription for medical marijuana, and he uses marijuana on his lunch break. After lunch, he gets hurt on the job. Is he covered under the workers’ compensation policy even though he is under the influence of marijuana? Will he be covered the same as if he were using a prescription medication distributed by a pharmacy instead?

Because marijuana isn’t a legal substance in Oklahoma right now, the insurance company could easily deny coverage if Johnny were involved in an accident while under the influence today. How do policies and coverages need to change to accommodate the use of medical marijuana moving forward? Those rules are still in the works right now, so we don’t have really clear answers, but we do expect changes to occur.

Questions about how it might affect life insurance coverage

Medical marijuana use also comes into play for life insurance approval and coverage. Life insurance coverage and premiums are all about risk. The higher risk identified for an individual, the higher the rates. And in some cases, high risk individuals are denied coverage completely.

So does medical marijuana use classify as risk? We’ve spoken with several carriers, and early indications show that if an individual has a prescription for medical marijuana and discloses that at the time of application, it won’t impact their rate. But like many other aspects of new regulations, companies still need time to sort out the details and update their procedures.