As It Happens

Sun Life insurance to treat all marijuana users as non-smokers

Medical marijuana user and advocate Jonathan Zaid says Sun Life's decision to treat consumers as non-smokers is the way of the future
Jonathan Zaid with his medical marijuana supplies in March 2015 (Ethan Alter, IMPRINT / University of Waterloo)

When it comes to life insurance Sun Life says it will treat all users of medical marijuana as non-smokers.

It is the first major Canadian insurance company to reverse a long-standing policy that assessed users of marijuana as "high-risk" and on an equal level as smokers of tobacco products. The decision means users of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes will now receive cheaper premiums.

Jonathan Zaid is welcoming this news both as a user of medical marijuana, and as an advocate.

Jonathan Zaid, founder of Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana (CFAMM) (Jonathan Zaid)

The founder of the group Canadians for Fair Access to Medical Marijuana, also known as CFAMM, tells As It Happens host Carol Off, "Insurance companies were treating the use of medical marijuana as equivalent to smoking tobacco, which there's really no scientific evidence to patients were paying rates that were really unfair."

For months CFAMM has been advocating for this very thing from the insurance industry. Zaid says the science on marijuana versus tobacco is clear, "Even if you smoke it -- and not ingest it -- there isn't the same long term health risks associated with cannabis as there is with smoking tobacco."

Zaid says he doesn't want to speculate about the motivations behind Sun Life's change of policy. He believes that even if this is just a business decision, patients who've been struggling financially and have been adversely affected by being seen as high-risk, are the winners.

Zaid's own ailment is a chronic neurological condition called New Daily Persistent Headache.

"I woke up with a headache one day when I was 14 and its basically never gone away."

Zaid believes the new policy will mean a big change for marijuana users.

"People using medical cannabis have very severe illnesses...they don't have the extra money to spend two and three times the rates for life insurance."


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