Medical vs. Recreational Legalization – The Differences You Should Know

Medical vs. Recreational Legalization – The Differences You Should Know

Today, 33 states offer legal access to cannabis for medicinal purposes. Of these 33 states, 11 of them have also opened up or are currently implementing legal adult retail markets. In a previous article, we looked at the benefits of maintaining patient status even with legal recreational access. In this article, however, we will be looking specifically at the difference between medical and recreational marijuana legalization. Is there a difference? Does the legalization of the different markets equal varying benefits or concerns? Let’s take a closer look, but first let’s take a look at the argument that all cannabis use in medicinal.

Intention vs. Actual Use – The Medical Argument

It is quite arguable that all cannabis consumption is medicinal, whether intentional or not. Our body has a naturally occurring Endocannabinoid System that is nourished by the absorption of phytocannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant. This system is responsible for creating and maintaining homeostasis throughout the human body.

So, while someone may light up just because they like the way it makes them feel, ultimately, they are benefiting from the plant medicinally, whether they realize it or not. The intention behind consuming cannabis, however, for many is clearly only recreational, while for others, it is the difference between life or death. With the number of studies available today, it is undeniable that cannabis is medicine.

The Difference Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana Legalization

With some states only offering medical access and others providing access for both patients and adult recreational consumers, it is essential to know the difference between the two types of legalization and the benefits they offer.

Tax Revenue

Tax revenue is a significant player in the arsenal of legalization supporters. And for many states, a major reason why politicians and the community have changed their views and now show support for legalization. The tax revenue collection potential, however, is different in each market.

In many medical cannabis markets, there is no excise tax, whereas, in recreational markets, there is often a 10% or higher excise tax that is utilized for predefined aspects typically being community education or drug awareness programs. Many also choose to delegate a specific portion of the excise tax to increase funding for municipal services and public education.

Number of Individuals with Access

When it comes to medical cannabis legalization, in most states, there is a minimal list of qualifying conditions that will allow an individual to be approved for medical cannabis patient status. Most of these lists are limited to terminal illnesses, cancer, Epilepsy, and other major illnesses.

Other states, however, like Oklahoma, doctors can recommend medical cannabis to any patient they feel has a condition in which cannabis could help. In recreational markets, however, the door is open to anyone over the age of 21. Depending on the specific state, their population demographics, and their qualifying conditions, whether recreational or medical legalization allows for broader access, could drastically vary.

Age Restrictions

Since cannabis can be detrimental to a developing brain, the age in which access is available is a major concern of both prohibitionists and advocates alike. While cannabis is not fatal in any fathomable amount, there is a slight risk that it can cause harm to a developing brain.

For this reason, age restrictions must be in place for cannabis use in recreational markets. Retail markets for cannabis in the U.S. have a universal age restriction in place of 21 years old, whereas the Canadian market is between 18 and 21 years.

In medical markets, however, children with approved patient status are more times than not suffering from disease and conditions that can do far more damage to the body than the slight risk of harm that cannabis may have on them. Therefore, many medical markets chose not to implement age restrictions on who can have legal, safe access to this medicine.

Final Thoughts on the Difference Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana

In conclusion, as you can see, there are some significant variants between legalizing medical and recreational cannabis as well as a slight difference in the meaning of both from the perspective of user intent. When it comes down to it, though, recreational or medicinal, everyone should have safe, legal access to this amazing plant that has so much to offer us.


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