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The Legalization of Marijuana & What It Means for Insurance

As the Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau announces that Marijuana will be legalized by 2018, there are still a lot of unknown factors that are going to need more clarification from the party leader himself. These factors will also heavily affect the insurance business with topics such as medical pot under employee benefits and the heightened risks of driving while under the influence of marijuana.

Medical Pot for Employee Benefits

Shortly after Trudeau announced that the drug should be legalized by, a few Canadian business moguls have since spoken out. According to the Toronto Star, Loblaw Companies Limited and Shoppers Drug Mart announced that they hope to become the largest pharmacy chain in Canada to sell medical marijuana.

In light of this announcement they also said in an internal memo that effective immediately they will be covering up to $1,500 per year of medical pot under their employee benefits plan. This announcement is huge because both Shoppers Drug Mart and Loblaws are huge brands in our country and medical pot benefits for employees, is a topic that has been raised frequently over the past few years.

If Shoppers Drug Mart were to be approved they would be the largest private sector company to offer medical pot coverage to employees. Shoppers Drug Mart applied last October to have the license to produce medical marijuana in terms of retailing the drug. This won’t be approved until the Liberals figure out specific laws for this business among with other issues.

Impairment Regulations

Another way that the legalization of marijuana affects insurance is impaired driving. A huge concern from individuals who are either unsure of the legalization of pot or against it, is the rise in impaired drivers. Many are concerned that there will be a huge increase in high drivers come 2018, how will the government and law enforcement handle this concern? Currently in Ontario, the result of failing a roadside sobriety test is a suspended license. But it is more difficult to detect a driver who is high than it is to detect someone who is under the influence of alcohol…

Once the drug is legal there will most certainly be a spike in use so now law enforcement needs to find a reliable way to determine how impaired a driver actually is. Some companies are trying to develop road side tests to measure the level of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) somewhat like a breathalyzer, except there is no consensus to say how much THC would classify an individual as impaired. Part of the problem is there doesn’t seem to be a magic number like we see with alcohol, certain marijuana effects certain people differently. The driving under the influence law has been well established for alcohol but since Canada is one of the few countries in the world to decriminalize marijuana for recreational purposes, the level for impairment is unsure.

For now, Canadian law enforcement will have to mimic how they asses impaired drivers in Colorado, where marijuana has been legal since 2014. According to an article written by CBC, instead of relying on tests, the officers are trained to spot signs of high driving and use their best judgement. These signs include:

  • Distracted driving
  • Light body tremors
  • Different sized pupils
  • Impaired motor skills
  • The smell of marijuana

This law will most definitely change not only the insurance industry but our country. As the legalization date approaches, the Liberal party will have to answer not only these but many other unknown factors. As an insurance broker we want to make sure we are prepared to handle the questions and concerns that will arise from the new legislation but we want to make sure our clients are safe and protected.

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