Filed Under:Risk Management, Loss Control

Study finds support for marijuana legalization, but its future is still cloudy

Questions abound about property and casualty coverage, drug-testing of employees, and whether driving after using marijuana qualifies as driving under the influence. (Photo: iStock)
Questions abound about property and casualty coverage, drug-testing of employees, and whether driving after using marijuana qualifies as driving under the influence. (Photo: iStock)

A poll of Americans and Canadians shows strong support for legalizing marijuana among respondents in both countries — at a time when the federal governments of the two countries seem to be going in different directions.

The study by DIG insights shows almost identical amounts of support for the legalization of marijuana between U.S. and Canadian respondents: at 57 percent and 56 percent, respectively. In America, 2 out of every 10 Americans (22 percent) say they have used recreational marijuana in the past year and an additional 24 percent would potentially use it if it became legal. Usage is higher among younger people (age 18-34), and those who make less than $60,000 per year (27 percent).

“Only 16 percent of Americans believe marijuana is ‘very harmful,’ which is lower than alcohol (27 percent), processed sugar (23 percent) and saturated fat (33 percent),” the study says.

“A majority (51 percent) believes consumption can be beneficial, while only 32 percent believe that regular users are less successful in life. However, 25 percent report having a close friend or family member whose life was negatively affected by marijuana.”

Officials with DIG Insights note the study was released just before World Cannabis Day (April 20). “Our goal was to create a custom research report that would serve as a benchmark for the growing cannabis industry, legislators, and other interested parties," says Rory McGee, research director of DIG Insights.

Two different directions


The study comes at a time when the Trump administration has signaled a harder line against marijuana possession, which is still illegal on the federal level, despite laws legalizing the drug in many states. In the U.S., eight states have legalized recreational use to some degree, and 28 states have legalized marijuana for medical use.

Trump’s new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, said recently marijuana is linked to violent crime and “good people don’t smoke marijuana.” In contrast, Homeland Security Chief John Kelly said marijuana is not a factor in the war on drugs.

To the north, Canadians seem to be following a different path. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week introduced a bill legalizing recreational marijuana’s use, which, if passed, would make Canada the second nation after Uruguay to completely legalize recreational use of the drug.  

Confusion creates problems for businesses


The mixed signals from U.S. policymakers are a major headache for businesses, especially when it comes to insurance.

“Insurance coverage is very much an open question for a variety of reasons including that policies typically do not mention or are ambiguous about marijuana, possession is illegal under federal law but the federal government has looked the other way, and the rules and science around marijuana intoxication are unclear,” wrote Andrew Simpson in a recent post at Insurance Journal.

Questions abound about property and casualty coverage, drug-testing of employees, and whether driving after using marijuana qualifies as driving under the influence.

Related: Latest pros and cons of medical marijuana in workers' compensation

If federal regulators start going after employees who use marijuana, or companies that produce and distribute the drug, the impact on the business community overall could be significant. Employers with locations in states where marijuana laws conflict are in an especially tough place. Legal experts usually recommend the most conservative approach, and that businesses should place the emphasis on safety, both for the workplace and for the public. 

Scott Wooldridge is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, specializing in insurance and health care. Contact him at scott@nokomismedia.com.

Originally published on BenefitsPro. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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