With marijuana laws changing at a rapid pace across the states, you might be wondering if there is still a significant difference between recreational and medicinal cannabis use. And if so, what is it?

Let’s clear that up for you. Yes, there are still a few key distinctions between the two types of marijuana classifications. However, as more states legalize recreational use, more and more people are pivoting away from the days of “medical-only” legislation.

In other words, both marijuana classifications are quickly on their way to simply being a matter of customer preference.

So, what are the key differences?


Recreational marijuana is pot used without medical recommendations or justifications. It can be purchased at any legal dispensary in your state by anyone with a valid ID, over the age of 21.

Medical marijuana, on the other hand, requires a professional recommendation from a certified doctor for a qualifying medical condition. After qualifying, patients are issued a medical marijuana card.

Internal Effects

Recreational marijuana is used to provide a euphoric feeling. These recreational strains contain a higher THC content than the medicinal variety, as this is what produces that pleasant and relaxing “high” effect. In some instances, though, recreational marijuana is used to treat stress, which would technically transform it into medical marijuana.

Medical weed contains a higher CBD content than recreational. This means when you’re taking it, you don’t feel the “high” that’s associated with the recreational variety. Cannabinoids, the active chemicals in medical marijuana, is used treat a number of health conditions such as:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Appetite loss
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Eating disorders such as anorexia
  • Epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Mental health conditions like schizophrenia and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscle spasms
  • Nausea
  • Pain

Research also suggests that cannabinoids might:

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Reduce inflammation and relieve pain
  • Control nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy
  • Kill cancer cells and slow tumor growth
  • Relax tight muscles in people with MS
  • Stimulate appetite and improve weight gain in people with cancer and AIDS

Even though there’s no actual difference between the concentrates and flowers of both types, medical edible potency is frequently higher than its recreational counterpart.

Pricing + Other Perks

Medical usage is subject to a few perks that are not available to recreational consumers, including lower costs and taxes.

An example of this can be seen in Colorado, where medical cannabis patients avoid the 10% retail marijuana tax and 15% excise tax that recreational dispensary costumers must pay.

More perks include higher THC potency limits, higher quantity restrictions, legal access for minors in approved medical cases, and the ability to grow their own cannabis.

Shopping Experience

When it comes to the shopping experience itself, recreational and medical shops offer similar experiences. Qualified medical marijuana patients must present both their medical cannabis card and a valid ID, while recreational users just present a valid ID at a recreational dispensary or dual shop.

Most shops are “dual-licensed,” meaning they cater to the needs of both recreational and medical consumers.

Some medical shops will have a waiting room where patients are called in one at a time to ensure privacy (of course, nothing is more private than a delivery right to your door). And, oftentimes, recreational stores are not permitted to provide medical advice to customers, although you can still shop at them as a medical patient.

In the past, social stigma and perception divided the line between recreational and medical cannabis. Now, as new marijuana products and medicines with an array of benefits come to market, that line has certainly blurred more than a little.

And it’s only a matter of time before state laws reflect that.