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May 21, 2021

Medical vs. Recreational Marijuana: What's the Difference?

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the terms “rec” and “med” and today we will try to explain the difference focusing on Colorado.

When you shop for cannabis, you can do so for recreational purposes or for medical reasons. The former basically means you are looking for relaxing, euphoric, mind-altering effects provided by marijuana. The latter means you use cannabis to help with symptoms of various ailments which were assessed by a physician.

To shop on the Rec side you just need to be over 21 years of age and have a valid form of ID (Driver’s License, ID card, passport, etc.). Shopping on the Med side requires a Colorado-issued form of identification and a medical marijuana card issued by the state after a visit to a medical marijuana doctor. It is usually referred to as a medical card or mmj card in Colorado and by similar names in other states. You can qualify for a medical marijuana card once you turn 18 but not all dispensaries allow medical patients aged 18-21. For that, the Med and Rec sides of a dispensary have to be completely separate from each other. Persons requiring cannabis for their medical conditions who are younger than 18 can have a parent caregiver shop for them if the child’s name is listed on the parent’s caregiver card.

Cannabis legality varies from state to state. Some states allow both recreational and medical sales, and in some cannabis is still completely illegal. To see legality by state as of last year, check out this map but keep in mind that more states have passed cannabis laws since then, although sales have not been launched yet.

Medical vs Recreational Potency and Quality

The first thing to remember is that the products are basically the same on both Rec and Med side.

Some misconceptions include more potent or "cleaner" product but itwould be wrong to think that.

The main difference is that state regulations allow medical customers to purchase higher doses per visit and of course lower taxes.

Edibles on the Med side usually come in packs with more THC in them - they will often contain 200, 500 and even 1,000 mg of THC compared to typical 100mg per package in servings of no more than 10mg on the Rec side. But it is essentially the same product. Also, the Med side usually offers more high CBD and low THC (e.g. 20:1 ratio) or CBD only products since many patients are looking for therapeutic properties of the cannabinoids and strive to avoid psychoactive effects.

How Much Cannabis Can You Buy? Medical vs Recreational

On the Rec side you can buy 1 ounce of flower or its equivalent in marijuana infused products, that is:

1 oz flower / 800 mg edibles / 8 g concentrates / 8,000mg cartridges

You can mix and match but the total has to be no more than an ounce of flower. That is, you can buy for example 1/4 of flower, 200 mg of edibles and 4g of concentrate in a day.

The limits on the Med side are as follows:

2 oz flower / 20,000 mg edibles / 40 g concentrates / 40,000mg cartridges

And you can also mix and match.

Some patients that require larger doses of THC may have an extended plant count which allows them to buy even more than 2 oz per day.

Medical vs Recreational Prices Colorado

There is a price difference here which comes from the fact that medical patients do not pay the majority of taxes that recreational patients do. In Colorado that is usually about 20% depending on where the Rec store is located.

Primary Patients or members that sign over their ounce count to a specific dispensary can enjoy an even wider range of benefits, including member pricing on flower. Silver Stem offers one of the most lucrative Primary Patient programs - 20% cashback on all your orders. Click here to see full details.

Getting a Medical Marijuana Card. Pros and Cons

Pros. The upsides of getting a medical marijuana card are - you save plenty of money on the medicine you need and the purchase limit is much higher than that for Rec customers, the medical dispensaries usually have a shorter wait time, and you get numerous bonuses and benefits. 

Cons. You can not legally own a firearm as a holder of a mmj card according to ATF. If you consume cannabis, even medically, you can not hold a commercial driver license since the DOT requires drug screening, and you will not be able to get a federal job since it requires drug testing. A mmj card will not let you avoid it, regardless of the legality in your state since cannabis is still illegal on federal level.

How Do I Get a Medical Marijuana Card?

If you have decided that the pros outweigh the cons, you can apply for a card. The process is not complicated but here are a few things to remember:

Dispensaries do not issue mmj cards. They can be obtained by visiting a medical marijuana doctor in your area. Many medical stores have coupons available for different doctor’s offices for any potential new medical card patients to utilize. If you are interested you can also search online for “mmj doctor near me” and sign up for your first-time appointment.

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