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Medical vs Recreational Cannabis in California: Differences Explained


In the past, cannabis consumers would need to get a medical card to buy and consume cannabis products legally. But ever since weed became legal recreationally in several states, including California, the need for a medical marijuana card has dwindled. Or has it? Some consumers are still wondering if they could benefit from getting a medical card regarding things like taxes and the quantity allowed for daily purchases. Many people are still questioning the key differences between getting medical marijuana and simply buying legal, recreational marijuana.

What is medical marijuana?

Medical marijuana is, essentially, marijuana that is sold and distributed specifically to alleviate certain medical conditions in the consumer. It can be used for various ailments, including anxiety, seizures, appetite loss, and glaucoma. Different strains have different effects on the body. When shopping for medical marijuana, the seller and the consumer should consider the exact health goal that the cannabis will be used for and determine which strain best suits that particular need.

What makes recreational cannabis different?

Unlike medical marijuana, recreational cannabis is used for the sole purpose of getting high for personal enjoyment. Recreational cannabis has no intentional medicinal qualities that make it necessary or beneficial to the consumer, other than the delightful feeling of being high. Recreational cannabis users may not be asking questions for health reasons. However, they have the benefit of being able to talk to bundtenders about what strains are best to use for things such as creativity, productivity, or to unwind. 

Medical vs. recreational weed

With medical and recreational weed having different purposes, there are some key differences in many areas.

Prices and taxes when buying

The specifics of prices and taxes when buying weed will vary from state to state. Still, it is typically cheaper to purchase medical marijuana than it is to purchase recreational marijuana. This is because, in many states, including California, taxes on medical marijuana are significantly lower than taxes on recreational marijuana. However, the subtotals are typically quite similar.

Quality of weed

Consumers who hold medical marijuana cards sometimes have access to products that recreational consumers do not. For instance, products with very high potency may be reserved for medical use only. This is because certain cannabis products can be crucial to certain medical conditions, while that critical factor does not exist for recreational use.

How much weed you can buy

In most states, medical marijuana users can buy a lot more weed at a time than recreational users. In California, consumers with a medical card can purchase up to eight ounces of cannabis at a time. At the same time, recreational buyers can legally only get one ounce of flower and eight grams of concentrate products in a day. 

How much weed you can grow

As is the situation with purchasing, you can also grow much more marijuana with a medical card than you can for recreational purposes. In California, you can grow up to six plants for recreational use, but you can have as many as twelve immature plants with a medical card or more if recommended by a doctor.

Age restrictions on buying weed

Age is probably the most straightforward difference between getting medical and recreational weed. In California and most other states, medical marijuana is legal for people ages eighteen and up, while recreational marijuana can’t be purchased or used by anyone younger than twenty-one.  

CBD and/or THC percentages

Consumers may find that medical marijuana has a higher CBD to THC ratio, while recreational marijuana has a higher percentage of THC. This is because CBD is known more for its medicinal benefits, while THC has the psychoactive effects that get you high. Under some medical circumstances, psychoactive effects are not necessary, but this is not always the case.

Do you need a medical card for recreational weed?

In short, no, you do not need a medical card to smoke weed recreationally as long as you are of legal age. However, you may want to get one if you are between the age of eighteen and twenty-one, and you don’t want to wait to start legally purchasing cannabis. You might further consider getting a medical card if you want to pay less in taxes or you’d like to buy/grow more weed at once.

What’s better: medical or recreational weed?

Aside from differences in legality and pricing, there is really nothing that makes medical marijuana better than recreational marijuana or vice versa. You are consuming the same weed at the end of the day; it’s just used for different purposes. 

Where to get a medical card for weed?

The easiest way to get a medical card is to go to your doctor. But, not every doctor is willing to provide one. Some medical institutions specialize in providing medical marijuana cards, and there are also many online sites that are just a quick google search away. You can virtually meet with a doctor who is guaranteed to provide a medical marijuana card for the appropriate medical conditions on these sites. 


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