Medical vs. Recreational Cannabis…What’s the Difference?

When legalized recreational cannabis gained approval in the first states to legalize it, Colorado and Washington, a dividing line existed behind other state lines, whereby qualifying medical conditions were the only way that people in need of the medicinal benefits of cannabis could get it.

Soon, more states started to make their own progress towards legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes, while the terms for different uses began to be established. Whether the terminology leaned toward “recreational” or “adult-use”, both referred to the personal consumption of cannabis that didn’t just refer to its use for medicinal purposes.

So, beyond the terminology, let’s look into what differences there may be between medical and recreational cannabis.

Shopping for Medical vs. Recreational Cannabis

When shopping for cannabis, be it for medicinal or recreational purposes, similarities do exist. For the purchase of medicinal marijuana, a patient has to show ID that proves their age is at the legally approved minimum or above to purchase cannabis, and that they have a qualifying medical condition that allows them to use cannabis for the treatment of symptoms.

Most medicinal cannabis dispensaries will have a room set apart from the store floor where patients can meet one on one with a professional medicinal cannabis specialist in private.

In a recreational store setting, the first noticeable difference is that there isn’t any one on one staff that can provide medical advice if the customer is a patient with a medical condition as they’re not permitted to do so, but a patient in need of cannabis for medical purposes can still shop for cannabis at the store.

A “dual-licensed” store can serve both recreational and medicinal customers, and also offer the type of discounts and tax deductions medical patients often need. Dual-licensed stores are in an ideal position to address patient questions and concerns, but also to be able to offer classes in the proper uses of cannabis to treat medical conditions, training, education, and certifications for their bud tenders.

Be sure to find out what kinds of dispensaries are available in your area, so that you can choose one with a staff that best serves your needs and that you can feel comfortable with.

Product Selection

The differences between medicinal and recreational products, no matter what kind of store or dispensary they’re in are minimal. In both locations, you’re likely to see and find a wide selection of cannabis edibles, strains, concentrates of varying types, topical creams and ointments, plus cannabis infused drinkables.

Preferential Perks

If you’re a medicinal cannabis patient, you might find that you can take advantage of certain types of benefits, or “perks”, that normally might not be available to recreational consumers. You could enjoy:

  • Lower product costs and taxes on products and treatments.
  • THC potency limits that can be higher than THC potencies in recreational cannabis stores.
  • Access for minors to receive treatment with legal approval for medical conditions such as cancer or epilepsy.
  • The freedom and clearance to grow your own cannabis at home, or to keep and maintain more plants in your home than a recreational customer.

If you live in a legalized cannabis state for medical or recreational use, you can find out what your options are and the benefits you can tap into with a medicinal cannabis card by consulting medicinal cannabis programs in your area.

Perception is Everything between Medical & Recreational Cannabis

Why is there still so much stigma attached to cannabis and the use of it, mainly directed to recreational users?

Part of the answer lies in the consumption of cannabis for different purposes. There’s still a strong social stigma attached to using cannabis for recreational purposes as opposed to needing to take it as one would any prescribed medication to treat an illness or condition.

Since the first states legalized cannabis for medicinal use, the percentage of Americans who have a more favorable opinion of cannabis has grown. But if you ask the same people about using it for enjoyment, the opinions will likely shift.

When it comes to using cannabis as a recreational drug, the social stigmas and red flags go up in the public eye.

On the flip side, for patients suffering from a disease who may need the exact same cannabis product to relieve their symptoms, the perception that it’s for a “good reason”, is more likely to take precedence.

In reality, you don’t exactly need to be a patient suffering from a critical disease to obtain the wellness benefits of cannabis. There are reasons why even the casual user can find a product in a medicinal cannabis dispensary that will work dramatically on a chronic condition, maybe in a cannabis-infused topical or edible.

Finally, Change is Coming

The social stigmas that continue to divide the public for and against medical and recreational cannabis will continue until possibly all states have legalized cannabis for medical and recreational use. Plus, with so many new cannabis-based products and medicinal treatments that are being introduced to the the market for recreational use, and the medical industry everyday, the lines between recreational and medicinal use cannabis are starting to blur. The wide range of symptom-relieving benefits for an increasing number of medical conditions that cannabis and cannabis-infused products contain have the potential to cross over into mainstream medical usage.

So, once state laws start to change and reflect a more widespread acceptance of the medical benefits of cannabis, the differences between recreational and medicinal cannabis and the stigmas attached to them both may end up making no difference at all.

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