Why Medical Marijuana Is a Better Option Than Recreational Marijuana
Posted by Glenn Beierle on 02/04/2019 in Medical Marijuana
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
In many states across the country, patients suffering from debilitating conditions can apply for a medical marijuana card. In some states, residents can purchase marijuana with or without a medical marijuana card. Recreational and medical marijuana is now legal in ten U.S. states. Those are:
It also legal for a person who is at least 21 years old to possess up to two ounces of marijuana in Washington D.C.
Patients who live in a state where both recreational and medical weed is legal may wonder if there are any reasons to have a medical marijuana card. What are the advantages of obtaining a recommendation from a doctor when a patient can stroll into a dispensary and purchase marijuana whenever they want?
There are actually several advantages of having a medical marijuana card in a recreational state, especially for patients who rely on cannabis every day to relieve symptoms. This article will explore the benefits of medical marijuana versus recreational marijuana and why medical marijuana patients should continue to seek care from certified cannabis doctors.
Advantages of Medical Marijuana in a Recreational State
States marijuana laws vary greatly, but in general, medical marijuana patients reap certain benefits when it comes to obtaining and possessing marijuana. Below are ten reasons to reconsider tossing your marijuana card to the side in a recreational state, and renewing your card instead.
1. Medical Marijuana Is More Affordable
Many patients take marijuana to relieve chronic symptoms. They might experience frequent migraines or suffer from debilitating back pain. Others might struggle with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To manage difficult symptoms on a daily basis, a patient may need to consume marijuana regularly throughout the day. This can add up in costs, but a medical marijuana card makes it more affordable.
States typically do not tax medical marijuana as heavily as recreational marijuana. Patients would be wise to keep their medical marijuana cards to save substantially on taxes over time. Consider the tax laws in Colorado and how it affects medical marijuana users and recreational users:
- Medical marijuana taxes in Colorado: In Colorado, there is a state sales tax of 2.9 percent on medical marijuana plus a regular local sales tax. In Denver, for example, the general sales tax rate is 4.31 percent. However, the state of Colorado also offers an exemption from state sales tax for patients who have a registry card a tax-exempt status from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. This is based on income. The city of Denver still must charge sales tax even for exempt patients.
- Recreational marijuana taxes in Colorado: In Colorado, recreational users can expect to pay a 15 percent sales tax on marijuana products. Recreational marijuana in Colorado is exempt from the state sales tax. Retail marijuana also faces an excise tax. The excise tax is 15 percent. This is paid by a retail marijuana store to a grower when the product is transferred. This tax may be reflected in retail marijuana prices, whereas medical marijuana is not subject to the excise tax.
Another good example is Oregon:
- Medical marijuana taxes in Oregon: Registered medical marijuana patients do not have to pay a sales tax on medical marijuana.
- Recreational marijuana taxes in Oregon: Recreational marijuana users have to pay a sales tax that can reach up to 20 percent.
These are just a few examples, but the tax rate can be much higher depending on the city and the state. Although an extra 10 or 15 percent added on to a single sale might not seem like a lot, these numbers can add up over time. Patients who experience chronic symptoms will want to consider how a medical marijuana card can save them a lot of money in the long run.
2. Patients Are Allowed to Consume Higher Doses
Many medical marijuana patients may need high-potency cannabis to relieve symptoms of debilitating conditions such as chronic pain or nausea. Although the limitations vary between states, in some cases, patients would be unable to obtain the dose of medicine they need if they give up their medical marijuana card because retail dispensaries may face potency limits on certain products, whereas medical dispensaries have fewer restrictions on potency.
In Oregon, for example, registered medical marijuana patients have access to medical grade marijuana while recreational users do not. Medical grade is the term used to describe marijuana products with higher tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration compared to products sold to recreational customers. Recreational customers can buy a package of edibles that contains up to 50 mg of THC and each serving size in the package may be up to 5 mg of THC.
On the other hand, a medical grade edible sold to a registered patient can contain up to 100 mg of THC per package, and there is no maximum serving size. This is especially important for patients suffering from chronic disease who cannot smoke marijuana or who need consistent dosage throughout the day. Also, medical marijuana users who regularly take medical cannabis may have a higher tolerance to THC than occasional recreational users, so it benefits them to have a card to ensure they can obtain the amount they need for relief.
3. Marijuana Cardholders Receive Medical Advice and Support
Medical marijuana patients are seeking help for severe conditions. They want a medicinal product that will ease their symptoms with the least amount of side effects as possible. Unlike many recreational users, medical marijuana cardholders are not looking to get high off of weed. Rather, marijuana is their medicine.
As with any treatment that involves medicine, it helps to have a doctor’s guidance. One of the benefits of having a medical marijuana card is that you have access to medical advice from a certified doctor. A doctor can help you find the best marijuana strain and method of consumption for your condition. Without a medical marijuana doctor by your side, you might feel lost or overwhelmed by options. You might also choose a strain or type of marijuana product that contains too much THC, or too little THC, for your symptoms. Although recreational dispensary workers are trained to know about their products and suggest different products for the kind of high you want, they are not medical doctors. They cannot legally give you medical advice. Therefore, if you want to take marijuana for health benefits, it’s better to seek a doctor’s recommendation and obtain medical marijuana instead of weed grown for recreational purposes.
4. Medical Marijuana Is Based on Scientific Research
Recreational and medical marijuana markets are completely distinct from one another. The recreational marijuana market focuses on getting users high, whereas the medical marijuana market is concerned with the medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant. For this reason, medical marijuana products reflect scientific research and standardization.
For example, Marc Wayne, the president of Bedrocan Canada, a medicinal cannabis producer, believes that the legalization of marijuana will cause a split between science-based companies and stores who merely want to sell their product. He is proud that his company is genuinely medically focused, and he doubts the recreational market will be able to provide marijuana that is equally consistent and as high quality as medical marijuana.
So, if you’re debating whether or not to get a medical marijuana card in a recreational state, keep this in mind — medical marijuana dispensaries are built upon scientific knowledge and expertise. Recreational dispensaries, on the other hand, are established to get users stoned.
It’s also important to note that, depending on your state, you may have to purchase medical marijuana at a medical-marijuana-only dispensary. However, in states like Washington, you may purchase medical marijuana from a dispensary that sells both medical and recreational weed if the dispensary is a medically-endorsed dispensary.
5. Medical Marijuana Patients Can Grow More Plants
Laws vary by state, but depending on where a patient lives, they may be able to grow more plants than non-medical marijuana cardholders. For example, in California, individuals over the age of 21 can plant, harvest, dry and process up to six marijuana plants. Individuals who are 18 years or older with a medical marijuana recommendation and a marijuana card, or who qualify as a caregiver, can possess up to six mature or 12 immature cannabis plants.
Similarly, in Oregon, recreational users can have up to four plants, while medical marijuana patients can have up to six. In some cases, patients are allowed to grow more plants if their physician recommends it. Growing medicinal marijuana can be greatly beneficial to patients for reasons such as:
- Patients can grow cannabis that is free of pesticides.
- Patients can save significant amounts of money over time by growing their own plants.
- Patients will have plenty of marijuana and not have to worry about running out of their medicine.
Patients can grow strains they have tested and know helps their condition. They never have to experience the stress of obtaining medicine from a dispensary. It takes some practice to grow, but for patients who want complete control over the quality of their medicine, they have more freedom to do that than recreational users.
6. A Medical Marijuana Card Promotes Continuous Care
Medical marijuana patients often have difficult conditions with symptoms that can be hard to manage on their own. It also frequently takes time to get better from an illness. With a doctor’s continuous support, they can receive the care they need to improve their health and stay healthy.
On the contrary, individuals who self-medicate with recreational marijuana are left to make their own decisions about their health without a doctor’s recommendation. This can be difficult for patients who have minimal experience with marijuana or who suffer from a range of conditions that need to be addressed. They also will not receive the continuity of care with cannabis as a medical marijuana patient would.
What does continuity of care mean exactly? Continuity of care provides seamless health care for patients. This means care that is free of interruption. You can imagine how this would improve health outcomes. With a certified medical marijuana doctor treating your symptoms, you get to develop a relationship with your doctor. The doctor has the chance to learn about you, your condition and your needs. This knowledge helps them recommend medicine that specifically suits you and will benefit you, and it will change over time as you change. They become a partner in your health.
Studies show that continuous care improves patient satisfaction. It also makes patients value the relationship with their doctor and feel more in control of their health. This can be highly beneficial for a range of mental and physical chronic conditions.
Patients cannot always make the best decisions for their health. Most do not have the years of medical knowledge and experience that doctors have. A doctor can recommend the best marijuana product for a patient and stick by their side over time to keep track of their symptoms, progress and any issues that may arise, providing the best care possible that dispensary workers cannot offer.
7. Medical Marijuana Patients Have Better Access to Dispensaries
Marijuana patients in states where both medical and recreational weed is legal may assume they can easily get access to recreational marijuana to replace medical marijuana. However, this is not always the case.
Some states are not prepared for the new recreational weed laws, nor have a sufficient number of recreational dispensaries open for business yet. For patients who depend on medical marijuana, they’ll want to keep their cards so they can get their medicine.
For example, there are several medical marijuana dispensaries in Massachusetts. However, there does not seem to be enough recreational shops to keep up with the demand. Recreational weed became legal in December of 2016. This is relatively recent considering that Colorado and Washington became the first states to fully legalize cannabis in 2012, and have had more time to get used to the new laws. In Massachusetts, medical marijuana patients need not worry about the state catching up with other legal states in terms of recreational dispensaries — they can still get their medicine from medical marijuana dispensaries.
Residents in Michigan also do not want to lose the marijuana card. The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act went into effect on December 6, 2018, making Michigan the most recent state to legalize recreational marijuana. However, although it is legal to grow, smoke and possess recreational marijuana in Michigan, stores cannot sell recreational weed for at least another year. Michigan is still working out rules and regulations. In the meantime, medical marijuana patients can continue purchasing their medicine from dozens of dispensaries around the state.
8. Medical Marijuana Is Available to Younger Patients
Parents of children with chronic conditions, or young adults under the age of 21, might feel stuck even if they can buy recreational or medical marijuana in their state. However, even in full legal states, certain restrictions still apply. Children cannot use recreational marijuana, and there are serious consequences for giving a minor weed. On the contrary, if a child or teenager under the age of 21 has a qualifying condition, they can legally obtain medical marijuana. For many parents and young patients across the country, this is a great relief.
For example, in a review of 75 patients under the age of 18 who were given oral cannabis extracts for treatment of epilepsy, 57 percent of parents reported some improvement in seizure frequency. Some parents also described an improvement in behavior, language and motor skills. Another survey conducted by Standford University found that 84 percent of parents reported a reduction in seizure frequency from cannabidiol (CBD).
Young people use medical marijuana more than one might realize. Statistics published by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) from December 2018 report over 4 percent of medical marijuana patients are under the age of 20, with the greatest majority of children reporting severe pain as the condition for medical marijuana, followed by seizures.
You must be 21 and over to buy recreational marijuana in Colorado, but you only need to be 18 to be eligible for a medical marijuana card. Minors are also eligible for a medical marijuana card if they have a qualifying condition and are, along with a parent, a resident of Colorado. Minors must also see two physicians and get recommendations from two physicians.
Likewise, in California, you must be 21 or older to legally use cannabis or 18 or older if you have a physician’s recommendation and a qualifying condition.
9. Medical Marijuana Card Holders Can Possess a Greater Amount of Marijuana
Perhaps the greatest benefit of owning a medical marijuana card in a recreational state is the amount you’re allowed to possess legally. For casual marijuana users, this might not hold much significance. However, for patients with chronic, debilitating conditions who take marijuana regularly every day, this topic makes all the difference.
To demonstrate the difference between a registered patient and recreational user, consider the laws in Oregon. In Oregon, a registered patient or caregiver can possess or purchase in one day:
- Up to 24 ounces of marijuana
- 16 ounces of medical cannabinoid in solid form
- 72 ounces medical cannabinoid product in liquid form
- 5 grams of a cannabinoid extract
- 50 seeds
On the other hand, a recreational customer may only possess:
- 1 ounce of marijuana in public
- 8 ounces of marijuana on private property
- 1 ounce of cannabinoid extract
- 10 marijuana seeds
In Washington state, individuals over the age of 21 can purchase the following from a licensed marijuana store:
- One ounce of marijuana
- 16 ounces of solid product infused with marijuana
- 72 ounces of liquid product infused with marijuana
- Seven grams of marijuana concentrate
Medical marijuana cardholders can purchase the following at a marijuana store with a medical endorsement:
- Three ounces of marijuana
- 48 ounces of solid product infused with marijuana
- 216 ounces of liquid product infused with marijuana
- 21 grams of marijuana concentrate
As you can see, medical marijuana cardholders are allowed to possess a lot more cannabis than non-cardholders.
10. Many Medical Marijuana Products Contain High Levels of CBD
Patients may want both THC and CBD in their medicine, depending on their needs. Both compounds have benefits. Other patients are not comfortable with the psychoactive effects of THC but want to benefit from CBD. Although it’s true that both medicinal and recreational marijuana come from the cannabis plant, growers usually grow plants to have a higher ratio of either CBD or THC.
You cannot get high from CBD, and many medicines with high CBD are used to treat a range of medical conditions. It may be smoked, applied topically, used in oils and more. Medical marijuana plants are often grown for their CBD content from quality strains designed to target pain. They may contain some levels of THC for therapeutic properties. Recreational strains are grown to get create euphoric highs and may feature a much higher THC content. This is important for people who must manage symptoms while at work for example, or who simply do not want to get high. If you want benefits of both THC and CBD, a qualified cannabis doctor can help you figure out what’s right for you.
Overall Health Benefits of Medical Marijuana
If you’re not sure what step to take next in caring for your health using medical marijuana, speak with a certified doctor. They can help you determine the best strain and method of administration for your needs.
As a medical marijuana patient, you might use the medicine to reap any of the following health benefits:
- Help with regulating blood pressure
- Reduces inflammation
- Reduces migraines
- Protects the brain from trauma
- Inhibits tumor growth
- Relieves pain
- Relieves anxiety and depression
- Relieves nausea and vomiting
- Helps relieve seizures
Marijuana is also less harmful than opioid pain medications because it is not addictive like opioids, and there is no risk of overdose.
Find a Medical Marijuana Doctor or Dispensary Today
Medical marijuana still has an important role in states where recreational weed is also legal. Medical cannabis patients have more access to dispensaries, high-quality strains designed to relieve symptoms of health conditions, the guidance of a doctor and the freedom to possess more cannabis than recreational users. They also get lower taxes on weed, making it far more affordable to have a marijuana card for patients who use medical cannabis daily. If you want to use marijuana to improve your health and quality of life, it’s worth holding on to a card or renewing a card in a legal state.
If you’re interested in obtaining a medical marijuana card, MarijuanaDoctors.com is here to help. Use our site to easily search for certified marijuana doctors and medical marijuana dispensaries near you. Sign up for the monthly newsletter to stay connected to the latest marijuana news and research.