Medical versus recreational cannabis. What’s the difference, you ask? More than you would expect.

33 states ( and D.C.) have already legalized medical cannabis and more join the fold every year. In states with recreational use as well it’s important to know whether you should bother with a medical card. Getting one can be a hassle for some and impossible for others depending on local laws. Before you bother making the dreaded doctors phone call, know the difference…

Use

If you hadn’t already guessed, medical marijuana requires a prescription from a health professional before purchasing. After visiting your doctor and explaining your symptoms you can be okayed for a medical card. Approved illnesses vary state to state but common reasons include seizures, nausea, lack of appetite, general pain and anxiety. Recreational cannabis can still treat symptoms, but is more commonly used for its uplifting “high.” This is the use you commonly see Snoop Dogg or Seth Rogen experiencing.

med versus rec weed

Potency

This isn’t your grandma’s grass! Thanks to decades of strain cultivation cannabis is more potent than ever. Specific growing methods and the demand for stronger plants has given rise to hundreds of different strains with their own names, smells, effects and cannabinoid concentration. Medical weed tends to carry a higher concentration of ​Cannabidiol (CBD). This molecule doesn’t deliver the “high” that THC does, but still delivers the psychological and physical benefits. Recreational marijuana favors heavier doses of THC as this is the psychoactive molecule, but you can find CBD heavy plants as well. Dispensaries have strains and properties labeled for easy shopping. If you’re unsure what you’re looking for you can always ask the “budtender” for recommendations.

Age

Pain doesn’t discriminate, and thankfully legislators understand this. With a prescription in hand you can begin purchasing or growing medical cannabis at age 18. If you’re just in it for the fun, or your state doesn’t recognize your illness for medical status, you’ll have to wait till you’re 21. After that you can buy a joint as easily as a shot, without a doctor’s approval.

medical cannabis

Taxes

The different functions of cannabis also means different tax rates. Thanks to its healthcare status medical cannabis is exempt from certain taxes that recreational is not. In Colorado, all weed is subject to a 15% excise tax that goes straight from the dispensary to the grower. This tax is automatically included in the ticket price though so you don’t need to worry about it. Medical dispensaries only charge state and local sales tax on purchases. At recreational stores you are charged an extra 15% sales tax because of its “non-health” use. Unfortunately, you have to pay more to have fun.

Cannabis is the most used recreational drug in the world. It’s popularity continues to grow as new forms and uses are found. Whether you smoke it for health or fun, the regulations and taxes affect you. Conditions for both uses are expanding as more states jump on the bandwagon. Laws vary from state to state so be sure to look up yours and always toke responsibly!

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