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Marijuana can be loved by all for medicinal or recreational uses, yet (laws vary by state), it’s essential to identify the fundamental differences between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.

Given, some of the differences may sound like semantics, but for legal and social purposes, certain differences must be made aware. While a recreational user may buy the same strain as a medical marijuana card holder, each purchase has its own unique restrictions.

Medical Marijuana Laws vs Recreational Marijuana Laws

As of this writing, the following states have legalized marijuana for recreational use:

  • – Alaska
  • – California
  • – Colorado
  • – District of Columbia
  • – Illinois
  • – Maine
  • – Massachusetts
  • – Michigan
  • – Nevada
  • – Oregon
  • – Vermont
  • – Washington

Though only 11 states and the District of Columbia currently allow recreational use, 34 states allow the use of medical marijuana with an appropriate license. So if you’re an adult living in California (which allows recreational use), you can walk into any adult-use dispensary and purchase marijuana for your own personal use. :

Shopping for Medical Cannabis vs Buying Recreational Marijuana

Medical dispensaries and recreational dispensaries (also known as adult-use dispensaries) differ considerably. If you visit a cannabis-friendly state like California or Colorado, you may notice that not all medical marijuana stores cater to the same clients. If you don’t have a medical prescription, you’ll only be able to shop in recreational marijuana stores and dual (recreational/medical) dispensaries. Medical-only shops are reserved exclusively for patients.

A medical dispensary typically resembles a doctor’s office or clinic, complete with medically licensed staff who are available to make recommendations based on the patient’s prescription. Patients are usually seen one at a time in a private room and may be provided with sample products to review. These dispensaries are regulated and taxed differently than recreational dispensaries, which resemble storefronts and cater to a wider audience. Recreational cannabis stores are not permitted to make medical recommendations unless they are licensed to do so.

Bear in mind that not all states have separate medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries. States like Nevada and Washington have no medical-only shops, but recreational weed dispensaries can receive special dual licensure if they meet state requirements.

What is “Recreational Marijuana” Use?

The word “weed” typically connotes recreational use, which isn’t subject to medical approval or control. When we refer to “using recreational marijuana”, the legal implications can be difficult. While 11 states and DC legally permit the recreational use of marijuana, these are not the only places where recreational users can be found.

Recreational use outside of the states included above is illegal and can lead to fines or jail time, but it’s nevertheless common. In fact, it’s estimated that more than 50 million American adults use cannabis in any given month. The bulk of these users are recreational, as there are only about 2 million medical marijuana patients in the U.S.

Recreational use is simply defined as consumption designed to alter the user’s state of consciousness, often with the goal of achieving some sense of euphoria or relaxation. This should not be confused with marijuana prescribed for anxiety or depression, which is intended for a clinical purpose. The recreational user seeks to achieve a heighten sense and improved state of mind, whereas the medicinal user seeks to treat a neurotransmitter imbalance that hinders their ability to function on a normal day to day basis.

Age Restrictions for Recreational vs Medical

All recreational weed states have the same age restriction: You must be 21 years of age or older to purchase or use marijuana on a recreational basis. However, with an approved medical condition, an 18-to-20-year-old can receive a prescription and purchase marijuana according to his or her state laws. In extremely rare cases, a doctor may also prescribe marijuana to a child under the age of 18. In most cases, a doctor will only issue a prescription to a child if the child has an immediate need and has had poor success with other treatments. Also, the laws vary by state. For example, a child can receive a medical card in Maryland, if the parent is over 21 years old and serves as caregiver. In other states, like Connecticut and Hawaii, the caregiver only needs to be 18 years old.