What Is the Difference Between Medical and Recreational Weed?

Updated on June 4, 2021
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If you live in Oregon, Illinois, Colorado or any of the 11 states that have passed adult-use marijuana legislation — and if you are over 21 years old — you have easy access to recreational weed pretty much whenever you want. Though there remain restrictions on how much marijuana product you can buy at a time and where you can use it, you are pretty much guaranteed access to weed.

Yet, even in states that have passed adult-use marijuana laws, there remains a distinction between weed for recreation and weed for medicinal use. Even though those who suffer from medical conditions like cancer, epilepsy and chronic pain can visit recreational dispensaries like the rest of us, they are given special permissions, to include the ability to shop at exclusive medical marijuana dispensaries. There are some states where you can even get remote medical attention for these conditions. You can find medical marijuana doctors online that will recommend the best options from their qualified team.

Why? What can you get from medical marijuana that you can’t get at the average recreational dispensary? Read on to find out.

Who Can Buy the Product?

Access to medical marijuana is restricted to those who carry a medical marijuana license, which is awarded by the state to those who qualify with unmanageable medical conditions. Most states maintain lists of specific conditions that are appropriate for medical marijuana recommendations; common to these lists are serious and debilitating diseases like HIV, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and PTSD. Often, qualifying conditions are difficult to manage with any other kind of treatment or medication.

After receiving a diagnosis of a qualifying condition, sufferers can request a recommendation for medical marijuana from a doctor. Then, they must apply to their state for a license, which requires the payment of application and registration fees. Obtaining a medical marijuana card is not cheap, but it is necessary for those who suffer from the worst health conditions.

Where Is the Product?

Medical marijuana can only be obtained at a licensed medical marijuana dispensary — which is notably different from a recreational dispensary. Medical dispensaries serve customers in different ways; like in pharmacies, patients typically wait for their chance to speak with a budtender before turning over relevant documents, like their medical marijuana card and descriptions of conditions they hope to treat. Budtenders in turn must have a deeper knowledge of their product and its medical applications to deliver health and well-being to patients.

In some states, recreational dispensaries can also service medical marijuana patients, but these dual-licensed pot shops still need to treat medical patients and recreational customers differently. Whether you hope to obtain a medical marijuana license or are merely looking for dual-licensed dispensaries, this is a good resource to find weed near you.

What Cannabinoid Content Is in the Product?

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Many recreational users wonder about the marijuana products themselves — how is weed reserved for medical use any different than the weed that any adult can buy? The answer to this tends to lie in the differences in cannabinoid content. While there might be some carryover between product availability in recreational and medical dispensaries, medical weed tends to be much stronger than the average stuff available to any adult.

For instance, the medical marijuana strain Lemon Meringue boasts a THC content around 28 percent — far beyond the average THC content in recreational strains, which hover around 16 percent. Medical strains can be higher in CBD content, as well. These extremely high cannabinoid strains are more difficult to cultivate, more dangerous to use and require more rigorous testing to sell, so they are reserved only for users who need truly them.

How Much Does the Product Cost?

Finally, you should consider the difference in cost between the two types of pot product. Though true prices will vary from state to state, and even from dispensary to dispensary, the price tag on medical marijuana can be between 10 and 30 percent lower than it is on comparable recreational drugs. Despite the higher costs associated with growing and testing medical weed as well as the costs of licensing a medical dispensary, medical weed tends to be more affordable because states offer more lenient taxes on medical products. Considering that medical users need this treatment to maintain their quality of life, taxing them to death is unethical; thus, medical marijuana simply costs less.

Though it might look like the same sticky, dried herb you are used to buying from your typical pot shop, medical marijuana is special. If you believe you need access to medical marijuana, you should talk to a health care professional near you for more information about how you can benefit from medical weed.

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The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.