The growing perception across the globe is that weed is medicinally beneficial. The insurmountable evidence proves this and the number of studies into cannabis’s medical potential continues to expand. Unfortunately, the federal prohibition of the plant limits the opportunity for clinical studies.
However, this has not stopped a growing number of states from implementing medical marijuana programs. If you live in a state which has legalized both medical and recreational cannabis, you may wonder about the differences between them.
If you suffer from a condition that medical cannabis is commonly prescribed to treat, you may wonder whether to get a medical marijuana card and receive prescribed weed or just go to the local dispensary and get recreational weed.
What is the difference?
The most obvious factor distinguishing the two categories of cannabis is intent. For example, people who use weed recreationally often smoke it to achieve a high, rather than to ease chronic pain or other conditions. It is estimated that more than 55 million American adults use cannabis in any given month. The vast majority of these users are recreational, as there are only about 2 million medical marijuana patients in the U.S.
The major difference between recreational cannabis and medical cannabis is the cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, the two most abundant compounds in cannabis. Medical cannabis products tend to have more CBD than recreational products.
THC is responsible for making users feel high. While THC is medicinally beneficial, its psychoactive nature is not ideal for users who want to use cannabis exclusively for health benefits. CBD has been proved to be an excellent medical remedy for a number of conditions.
If you are interested in medical cannabis, you do not need to consume cannabis with a high THC level. While both medical and recreational cannabis has THC and CBD, you stand to gain more medical benefits from a product with a higher CBD ratio.
All states with legal recreational cannabis have placed an excise tax on the sales of recreational cannabis except for Washington, DC, where possession of weed is allowed but sales are not.
The exact amount of the excise tax depends on the state, while some states authorize an additional jurisdictional tax as well as the excise tax. Administrative fees, local budget revenue, and law enforcement funds are covered by the local tax.
States that have recreational and medical cannabis permitted allow medical patients to forgo the local and excise taxes.
California as an example has 3 separate taxes on weed: a sales tax, a local tax, and an excise tax. The medical patients, however, only need to pay the sales tax.
Age restrictions on cannabis
You must be at least 21 years of age to purchase or consume cannabis in all recreational weed states. However, if you are approved to obtain a medical license, you must be at least 18 years old to purchase and consume cannabis.
In some scenarios, a doctor may prescribe cannabis to a minor if they strongly believe it will help the quality of life for the child. The laws are different in every state. For example, in Maryland, a child can obtain a medical weed license if their legal guardian is over 21 years old and serves as their caregiver. In states such as Hawaii and Connecticut, the caregiver only needs to be 18 years old.
For many years, the assumption was that medical marijuana patients require more potent weed than recreational users. However, research suggests that “less is more” when dosing cannabis, primarily THC.
Many studies suggest that THC in low doses can be equally or even more effective than THC given at high doses. For example, in a 2014 study published in the Journal of Pain, “Thirty-nine patients with central and peripheral neuropathic pain underwent a standardized procedure for inhaling either medium dose (3.53%), low dose (1.29%), or placebo Cannabis.”
In this study, 21 out of 37 low-dose subjects reported a reduction in pain. Surprisingly, when the dose was increased to a medium level, there was almost no effect on these results. Only one additional subject reported reduced pain after the dose was increased (22 out of 37), suggesting that low and moderate doses are equally or even more effective for relieving pain.
Users can also develop a temporary resistance or “tolerance” to cannabis which can be avoided by using lower doses consistently.
Medical cannabis cardholders may enjoy greater access to strains with a higher CBD to THC ratio. Researchers have found evidence to suggest CBD possesses the following properties:
Access and availability
18 states have legalized cannabis recreationally for adults over the age of 21. However, states that pass laws to legalize weed often take time for any programs to become established. Certain counties within that state may also choose not to participate in allowing recreational stores into their district. States that have legalized cannabis medically often work with more urgency because the sole purpose of such laws is to grant patients access to much-needed medicine.
Recreational weed stores are ideal because they allow access to any age-eligible adults regardless if they have a “qualified medical condition.” Medical facilities restrict access to only those who apply and obtain a medical license for specific ailments which ultimately discriminates against people with medical ailments that may not be deemed worthy for cannabis use.
Medical shops often have fewer taxes on their products than recreational shops and they can even offer more potent products in some instances. For these reasons, it behooves medically licensed patients to go to medical shops, but they can still find a good assortment of beneficial products at recreational stores.
Medical cardholders also have the added benefit of being able to obtain caregivers that provide cannabis. This is a good option for patients that may not live in close proximity to any dispensaries. Having a caregiver may limit your ability to grow your own weed plants, however. Make sure to research your local medical cannabis laws before applying for a license.