What is Considered Heavy Marijuana Use?

We’re going to cover the differences between light and heavy marijuana use in terms of short-term effects, long-term effects, risk factors, and treatment options if you feel that you’re having trouble reducing the amount of cannabis consumption. 

We promise to try to avoid all of the scare tactics and Negative Ned things, instead focusing on what we know from peer-reviewed medical studies.

If you are worried that you’re enjoying recreational smoking (or using cannabis as medicine) too much to qualify for affordable life insurance, give us a call at (888) 987-8447. Alternatively, take a look at how marijuana affects life insurance rates.

Definition of Heavy Marijuana Use

The medical community seems to agree that smoking once or more daily qualifies as heavy marijuana use, sometimes called chronic use. It may still fluctuate as more medical studies get funding and release peer-reviewed papers.

We chose the medical research community’s definitions because they need something quantifiable (aka measurable) to base any research in useful science.

The paper “Laboratory verification of ‘heavy’ and ‘light’ users of cannabis” found a unique way of measuring a chemical marker in urine samples that lasts 72+ hours in urine after a single consumption, THC-11-oic acid. 

The amount of the chemical marker found correlates with frequency of use, letting medical studies differentiate between daily users, regular users, and infrequent users.

(Insurance companies differ, and since we specialize in helping people who smoke cannabis both for recreational use and medicinal purposes, we’re including that in a later section.)

Short-Term Effects of Heavy Marijuana Use

In the short term, you get high. It can be relaxing, fun, or paranoia-filled, depending on the people you’re around and what you’re doing. (Please don’t drive, you can get almost anything delivered or take an Uber/Lyft.)

Health-wise, you might experience: 

  • Cottonmouth
  • Feel like snacking
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Reduced anxiety
  • More anxiety
  • Pain relief
  • Reduced nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Bloodshot eyes 

Some of these are good. Some are less so. But they all will pass with time.

What Does It Mean to be a “Heavy User”?

Heavy use tends to correlate with Marijuana Use Disorder. Depending on the study, they find that 10-30% of daily consumers show signs of MUD. (That’s a horrible acronym, one would think they could have found something better.) You also sometimes see it called “cannabis use disorder.”

MUD is not a chemical dependency like tobacco smokers get from nicotine. It’s a psychiatric disorder boiling down to life feels better when someone smokes. In a Harvard Gazette article, Dr. Kevin Hill talks about treating cannabis addiction and that, “yes, it is addictive.” 

This makes sense if you have something you can’t stop despite the consequences of addiction (loss of career, family, friends, health, wealth, etc.)

Long-Term Effects of Heavy Cannabis Use

Let’s assume that you avoid Marijuana Use Disorder since that’s statistically likely.

The medical community just doesn’t know much yet.

We could hazard a guess that using cannabis to manage chronic pain or anxiety may lead to improved quality of life. Medical marijuana for chemotherapy patients might improve outcomes. But there’s no real data.

On the flip side, it might also be reasonable to speculate that since we know for sure smoking damages the lungs, frequent marijuana smoking may damage your lung tissue. Again though, we need more medical studies.

However, in young people using cannabis products, recent research has shown that regular marijuana use can negatively impact cognitive function and brain structure development.

When/If Heavy Marijuana Use is a Cause for Concern 

When should you consider cutting back?

Starting to show signs of MUD is a good signal. If it’s negatively impacting your life, that’s a good reason to cut back, if not quit altogether. Specialists will often recommend seeking cognitive behavioral therapy as a first step. Addiction treatment can also help with managing side effects.

But if it’s not negatively affecting your physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being, then it’s between you and your doctor.

Insurance Implications 

Insurance companies vary widely in their underwriting guidelines. This is why it’s important to work with an agent who is familiar with underwriting guidelines for marijuana use. Of course, our agents at Marcan Insurance are knowledgeable about how the insurance companies we represent will rate cannabis users.

Some insurance companies will offer preferred rates if you use marijuana a couple of times per year. Other companies will offer a preferred rate even if you smoke 3x/week.

A handful of companies will offer non-tobacco rates, even if you use up to 6x/week.


If you’re consuming cannabis on a daily basis, medically speaking, you’re a heavy user. Sometimes you also see this called a frequent user or regular user.

what is frequent cannabis use?

Casual users are the other classification, with a wide range of between 1-25 times a month.

How Marcan Insurance Can Help 

We’re a small group of independent life insurance agents focused on getting medical and recreational smokers the insurance coverage that will protect their family without paying absurd smoker rates.

Even people working in the cannabis industry can face challenges finding insurance, so we cover that too.

If you have any questions about the best company for your particular situation, give us a call at (888) 987-8447.