Marijuana vs. Alcohol – The Good, The Bad, & The Life Insurance

In this article, we’re going to look at both the upsides and downsides of marijuana vs. alcohol. We’ll also cover how consumption affects your insurance rates, depending on the frequency. 

Let’s start. 

Quick Summary

A lot of people ask us about marijuana vs. alcohol as far as life insurance goes.

alcohol vs. marijuana

As far as negative effects on your health, there is more indication that the health risks from alcohol have more severe long-term consequences than recreational use of cannabis. However, information about marijuana use disorder is growing. Plus, as we move past cannabis prohibition, more medical researchers are able to study the negative impacts.

Mild cannabis use doesn’t necessarily affect your life insurance rates anywhere in the United States, regardless of state law. While most companies still automatically decline recreational marijuana, a dozen companies will approve it.

Medical use will depend on the reason for the prescription. Alcohol use in moderation will not affect your rates, but excessive or indications of binge drinking will.

While we’re not doctors, we can help you navigate insurance to get good rates and coverage while using either or both substances. Give us a call at (888) 987-8447 today.

The Good

Cannabis has some positive medical qualities contained within the variety of cannabinoids. Alcohol also has a few health benefits when consumed minimally. 

Let’s start with marijuana.

The only FDA-approved drug right now is for a rare childhood epilepsy. 

More general benefits (although cannabis needs more large, long-term studies) include:

  • pain relief
  • reduction in nausea for chemotherapy patients
  • can induce hunger for people struggling to eat for various reasons
  • help folks get to sleep
  • improve mood in people with chronic health conditions. 

It’s also improbable to overdose on cannabis. The rough guideline is that you’d have to smoke your weight in cannabis – which would be an extraordinary feat and highly unpleasant process. 

You’ve probably heard a few health benefits of alcohol, especially if you socialize with wine enthusiasts. 

First, there’s the saying that a glass of red wine a day is good for your heart. Moderate drinking (1 a day, like a vitamin) can show a reduction in heart disease risk

Alcohol (specifically red wine again) has antioxidants. It can also reduce the protein responsible for blood clotting, which is why you don’t get tattoos the day after drinking.

Finally, the drink-a-day can increase good cholesterol levels. 


One study found that men who smoked cannabis were less likely to commit an act of intimate partner violence against a spouse. Couples who both consume marijuana were also less likely to have any type of intimate partner violence. 

The Bad

Anything in excess is, unfortunately, terrible for you. 

Researchers are still gathering data on the long-term effects of smoking cannabis. It will likely be several decades before a comparable amount of research comes in on the long-term health effects. 

But let’s start with what we know. 

Smoking anything, cannabis included, damages your lungs. In the case of marijuana, there is no direct link between smoking and lung cancer. But it is tied to chronic bronchitis and increased coughing. Many people also report increased heart rate, although this has not been linked in clinical trials to higher risk of heart disease.

Downregulation is not often discussed but is important to be aware of as society starts having more open conversations about mental health. Downregulation happens as your brain adjusts to a constant barrage of cannabinoid receptors. In short, it makes sober life less vivid and thrilling

In people predisposed to mental health pitfalls, it can exacerbate the likelihood of schizophrenia. However, some argue that people who are predisposed to schizophrenia are more likely to smoke cannabis. Young adults seem to be more sensitive to mental illness links with high doses of marijuana.

The health effects of alcohol have a whole host of detriments. 

But first, let’s define drinking. The Center for Disease Control defines moderate alcohol consumption as one drink per day (or less) for women and two drinks per day for men. Heavy drinking is more than that. 

Short-term risks of heavy drinking include accidents resulting in injury, violence, alcohol poisoning, and damage to a fetus for pregnant women. 

Long-term risks of excessive drinking include: 

  • Heart disease
  • Liver disease
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Cancer 
  • Weak immune system
  • Depression & anxiety
  • Memory loss
  • Alcohol use disorders
  • Family problems
  • Employment problems

None of the risks for either look too great. When picking between the vices, cannabis is likely the safer choice. Here’s a recent study comparing harm to others from alcohol and marijuana use.

The Life Insurance

Insurance companies do everything based on data. They don’t care about anything else because they can only stay in business with a correct assessment of the risks. 

Currently, 12 life insurance companies will offer life insurance to cannabis smokers without a problem. However, marijuana smokers who also engage in cigarette smoking will still get tobacco rates.

life insurance with alcohol or cannabis use

They have a range of smoking frequencies. Some even give the best health classes at nonsmoking rates to anyone who smokes four times a week or less

Other companies have more conservative underwriting guidelines. They’ll only give the best rates to people who smoke twice a month or less. 

Read more on how THC affects life insurance rates here.

Alcohol has a different set of (frankly more stringent) guidelines. 

Every company will ask about alcohol consumption. Guaranteed issue policies provide the only exception. They don’t ask any medical questions.

Moderate drinking is less than 14 drinks a week for men and seven for women. Some companies have even more stringent guidelines, down to half that much. 

Underwriters also check your driving history. More than one DUI in the past few years will reduce your health class rating. More than 14 drinks a week (7 for women) will reduce your health class. 

Finally, alcoholism creates problems with insurability – but it’s not hopeless. 

Companies will start issuing life insurance policies to recovering alcoholics once they hit the three years sober mark. In the meantime, a guaranteed issue policy can work as a stopgap measure. 

It takes nine years of sobriety to qualify for standard or better health classes. 

When comparing policies, check the exclusions on a life insurance contract. Many insurers have alcohol-related exclusions. For example, some companies won’t pay claims if the insured was driving under the influence. 

What If I’ve Been Declined Before?

If a company has previously declined you for life insurance, that doesn’t mean you’re uninsurable. Underwriting guidelines change over time, and many issues can be resolved as time passes. 

The best thing to do is call an independent insurance agent to shop the market for you. They can compare underwriting guidelines between dozens (sometimes hundreds) of life insurance companies to find the one that best fits you. 

You can also get a guaranteed issue policy for a few years until you qualify for traditional underwriting. It keeps your family covered until you can reapply for lower rates. 


Scientific reports will likely change our perceptions about use of marijuana over the next several decades. Right now, we know smoking cannabis regularly can cause lung irritation and increase risk of bronchitis.

Excessive alcohol use and alcohol abuse tie directly to cancers, cognitive impairment, increased likelihood of a car accident, and violent behavior.

Young people incur greater risks to their quality of life since their bodies and minds are still maturing.

How Marcan Insurance Can Help

At Marcan Insurance, we’re an independent, family-owned agency. It’s our mission to help families find the best coverage for their needs at the lowest rates. 

If you aren’t sure how smoking or drinking affects your life insurance application, call us today at (888) 987-8447. We’re happy to shop the market for you, and there is never any obligation to move forward.