What is the difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana, anyway?
When it comes to medical marijuana and recreational marijuana, the two are often conflated. People assume that medical marijuana is simply the same as the recreational drug, legalized for those with some sort of ailment or pain - but that's not true at all.
In this post, we'll cover the differences between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana. By the end of this article, you'll have a firm understanding of what medical marijuana is and isn't, as well as how it compares to the recreational drug legalized in some states for adult consumption.
Medical Marijuana vs Recreational Marijuana
What is medical marijuana?
Medical marijuana is cannabis that has been prescribed by a licensed physician to ease the symptoms of debilitating medical conditions. These include cancer, HIV/AIDS, seizures severe enough to cause an interruption in daily life, and more.
For some patients, medical marijuana provides a better quality of life, while for others it can be a way to ease chronic pain and discomfort. Ultimately, someone who holds an MMJ card can use medical marijuana for any condition their doctor prescribes it for, and in some states, doctors are allowed to prescribe MMJ to any patient they feel can benefit from its effects - whether or not the condition is specifically listed as "debilitating."
In other words, if you go to a physician with severe nausea caused by chemotherapy treatments, they may prescribe you medical marijuana to see if it helps with your symptoms. But people experiencing a wide assortment of other health concerns may also find relief with medical cannabis.
Medical marijuana is different from recreational marijuana in that these products are only sold at licensed dispensaries, where they must meet strict quality standards set by each state's governing board of MMJ.
What is recreational marijuana?
Recreational marijuana, on the other hand, is cannabis that has not been prescribed by a licensed physician to ease the symptoms of debilitating medical conditions. Instead, it's used purely for enjoyment - often with no intention of treating any illness or alleviating any pain whatsoever.
Recreational marijuana is most often seen in the form of a hand-rolled cigarette, a pipe, or a water pipe (hookah) that contains cannabis. It can also be consumed through edibles such as cookies and brownies, but it's more common to smoke or vape these products.
People who participate in recreational marijuana use do so in order to get high, and it's often packaged with a label stating its level of THC and other cannabinoids. In most cases, recreational cannabis' high comes from a much higher percentage of THC than medical marijuana, as well.
Recreational marijuana is legal in some states for people 21 and older, but it's still illegal on a federal level.
Medical Card vs Recreational Access
So what do you get with a medical card vs recreational access? For starters, in some states, consumers are unable to access the dispensaries without a medical card.
Dispensaries that require a medical card are highly regulated by the state they're located in, so their products are subject to more stringent testing than those that sell non-prescribed marijuana. This usually means more insight into the cannabinoid and terpene content, too.
Medical dispensaries also have a wider selection of product types available for purchase, too - everything from edibles and tinctures to topical creams and waxes can usually be found at these locations.
But what does recreational access entail?
Recreational cannabis is available in the form of loose flower, or pre-rolled joints that can be purchased at a local dispensary. But you can find it in various other forms, as well.
Similar to medical marijuana, recreational cannabis can also be purchased in the form of concentrates, which are much more potent than simply smoking flower. These products come in a variety of forms that must be consumed using special equipment.
It does not require a medical card to buy and is generally less expensive than MMJ - but don't expect to find much variety at your typical shop unless you live in a state with a large number of recreational dispensaries.
Is medical cannabis better than recreational?
For many patients, medical dispensaries provide the best access to high-quality marijuana that is free of contaminants and heavy metals.
Medical marijuana is tested for quality and safety, so you can have confidence that the products you are buying are safe for consumption. Thus, for many, medical cannabis is better than recreational, especially if they’re looking to use it as a potential treatment.
Medical Marijuana vs Recreational Marijuana FAQ
What's the difference between medical and recreational?
Medical marijuana is cannabis that has been prescribed by a licensed physician with a belief that it might ease the symptoms of debilitating medical conditions. It can be consumed through edibles (e.g., cookies and brownies), smoking or vaping, or applied topically.
On the other hand, recreational marijuana is cannabis that has not been prescribed by a licensed physician to ease the symptoms of debilitating medical conditions. It's used purely for enjoyment, and it often comes with very high levels of THC.
Is there a difference between medical and recreational dispensaries?
Yes! The products sold at these outlets vary widely in their potency and purity.
Medical dispensaries in states that have legalized medical marijuana are highly regulated by the state they're located in, so their products are subject to more stringent testing than those sold at a non-prescribed dispensary. They also require visitors to hold a medical marijuana card. While some states allow medical marijuana reciprocity, others might not. So, if you're visiting another state and need access to medical cannabis, it's best to check the medical marijuana reciprocity of the state before your trip.
Recreational dispensaries are somewhat of a free-for-all – at least for those 21 years of age or older. These operations are allowed to distribute cannabis and related products to adult consumers. However, they still must adhere to strict regulations and tracking requirements.
Is medical marijuanas the same as recreational?
The most significant difference between medical marijuana and recreational cannabis is the cannabinoid content. These are the active ingredients in the plant, and most of the time, recreational products will have a higher THC content than medicinal products. Medicinal products often have more CBD than THC. However, these products may have high THC potency, too.
What is the difference between medical and recreational?
Medicinal use marijuana is more focused on CBD consumption rather than THC. However, THC has its own medical application, as well. Recreational cannabis also can have CBD. However, cannabis for adult use usually has more THC to produce psychoactive effects.
Concluding on The Difference Between Medical Marijuana and Recreational Marijuana
Medical marijuana and recreational cannabis are similar products that can have vastly different effects on the human body. While medical marijuana is offered with a recommendation from a licensed physician to ease the symptoms of debilitating medical conditions, adult-use cannabis can be purchased for recreational consumption.
Both medical and recreational marijuana can be consumed through edibles (e.g., cookies and brownies), smoking or vaping, or applied topically. However, the cannabinoid content can differ as the goals are not always the same.
We hope this article was informative, and if you're looking for access to medical marijuana in Virginia, schedule an appointment to get your recommendation from one of our licensed physicians. This is the first step to obtaining your medical marijuana card in VA and we're always happy to help!