Medical vs. Recreational Cannabis: An Inside Look Into the Key Differences

Medical vs. Recreational Cannabis: An Inside Look Into the Key Differences

As more states in the U.S. pass legislation surrounding cannabis, it’s essential to understand the differences between recreational and medical marijuana. After all, the variation in regulations around the country can make navigating the industry a headache and a half.

Before dabbling in the world of herbs, look at the key distinctions between both cannabis categories below.

User intent

The most significant discrepancy between recreational and medical cannabis is consumers’ use. Those who use herbs recreationally do so to achieve the euphoric feeling afforded by THC. The mind-altering characteristics of the cannabinoid are described by many as relaxing and enjoyable.

Medicinal marijuana, on the other hand, is prescribed as a therapeutic measure to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation. Doctors will prescribe medical cannabis for patients with Crohn’s disease, Glaucoma, Osteoarthritis, and Chronic pain, among many others.

While medical marijuana users overwhelmingly report satisfaction with the treatment, it’s important to note that any controlled substance must be used with caution. Using more than the prescribed dose or feelings of overdependence may indicate an addiction. Luckily, there are several available addiction treatments that correct unhealthy relationships with medical cannabis.


Medical and recreational cannabis also differ significantly in quality. While both are derived from the same plant, the variation in the cultivation and production process produces quality discrepancies. Medical marijuana undergoes greater scrutiny and regulation before being sold to the consumer. The extensive process results in a medicinal product with calculated THC and CBD levels. Recreational cannabis, on the other hand, is not regulated as closely. Although the product is by no means unsafe, it often contains higher levels of THC.


Consumers living in states where recreational and medical cannabis are legal will experience different product availability. To access medical cannabis, you must first receive a physician’s recommendation for a physical ailment. Once you’ve received a medical marijuana license, it must be renewed regularly and monitored by the state.

To purchase recreational cannabis, you must simply show your identification to a licensed dispensary and be over 21 years of age. Although purchasing recreational marijuana appears accessible, only 11 states have passed recreational legislation. Alternatively, 30 states have passed medical cannabis regulations, making medical marijuana dispensaries more widely available.

Workplace tolerance

Despite the increase in cannabis legislation passed across the country, many private employers enforce a zero-tolerance policy regarding marijuana. Even employees who consume cannabis outside of work hours can be terminated for violating company policy. Fortunately, more employers are adopting tolerance toward those that use medical cannabis. Moreover, states like Arizona, West Virginia, and Oklahoma have passed protection laws that prevent companies from discriminating against medical marijuana cardholders.

Final thoughts

The increasing tolerance and acceptance surrounding cannabis will continue to reshape the landscape of marijuana. For now, it’s important to discern between the specific regulations surrounding recreational and medical cannabis. Understanding the variations in use and quality can help you decide which product is right for you. Distinguishing differences in accessibility and workplace tolerance is also crucial as you navigate medical and recreational cannabis. Whatever product or opportunity you choose, always practice caution when incorporating marijuana into your lifestyle.


Traffic Roots Pixel