Is it Worth it to Get a Medical Marijuana Card if Weed is Legal Recreationally?
As the legalization of recreational marijuana spreads, some users with serious medical conditions may wonder if they should get a medical marijuana card. The short answer is yes. There are tons of benefits that can come from carrying a medical marijuana card.
In fact, having a medical marijuana card may be more beneficial than buying recreationally. Many of the benefits include accessibility, cost, and even the amount of cannabis that a user can buy.
In this article, we discuss why it may still be worth it to get your medical cannabis card, even if recreational weed is legal in your state.
What is a Medical Marijuana Card & How Can I Get One?
If you’re suffering from a medical condition or ailment, you may be eligible for a medical marijuana card. A medical marijuana card allows a potential user to access cannabis from a variety of dispensaries for any number of ailments.
In order to get a valid license, potential users must first provide proof of identity (such as a driver’s license) and get written approval from a licensed physician in their respective state. Once this has been accomplished the user must then apply through a state program and pay any applicable fees.
Each state has its own set of guidelines and fees for a card, as well as regulations and policies that govern marijuana use and distribution. Also, not all states have legalized marijuana (recreationally or otherwise).
Vermont, for example, has legalized possession of cannabis as recently as 2018, but has no legal market. Be aware that marijuana is also not federally recognized as a legal substance, and is currently classified as a Schedule I drug. Drugs on this schedule are classified as having a high potential for abuse, and no acceptable medical use.
However, as more studies are produced and support grows, state laws are rapidly changing and expanding across the board. It is important to follow up with any state authorities on eligibility, guidelines, and policies.
The Benefits of an MMJ Card… Even if Weed is Legal Recreationally
The major benefits to getting a medical card may vary from state to state, but many of them include the following:
MMJ cardholders may be at an advantage when it comes to cost. At this time, cardholders don’t have to pay any “sales and use” taxes on cannabis purchased from a dispensary. Cardholders could save up to 10% or more on each purchase. This rule applies to most cannabis products, including edibles. Recreational users may be on the hook for up to 40% more in taxes, including excise taxes and local taxes.
It also may cost less per unit. In Chicago, for example, a gram of cannabis currently may cost anywhere between $15- $20 at medical dispensaries, while 3.5 grams can run up to $37.50. However, for users who don’t have a medical card, it can be as high as $60 or more depending on the strain and amount. As competition between markets becomes fierce, these prices may change.
Medical marijuana often has an even bigger advantage; the amount of active ingredient per milligram. In California, for example, there are rules that govern the amount of THC in each serving given to customers recreationally. Most edible cannabis products can contain about 100 milligrams per 10-servings per package. For other products such as lotions or tinctures, the recreational market allows for 1,000 milligrams versus 2,000 milligrams medically. The potency of cannabis a user receives can be vastly different depending on if it is medical or recreational in nature.
In Colorado, for example, recreational buyers can purchase one ounce of cannabis, up to eight grams of concentrate, and 800 mg of edibles. Medical marijuana cardholders, however, can buy up to two ounces per day. In some states, there may be supply and demand issues.
Medical marijuana cardholders may be given preferential treatment versus those that buy recreationally. This means that many medical dispensaries, especially in states like Massachusetts, may reserve supplies for medical patients while recreational users must worry about there not being any product at all.
In most states, the legal age of obtaining and using recreational marijuana is 21 years of age. For those who have a medical card, this limit often drops to 18 years of age or even younger with parental consent. If you suffer from maladies that can affect your day-to-day lifestyle, waiting until you’re past the legal age may not be a great option. It may be best to get a medical card instead.
At this time, there are a growing number of medical dispensaries across the U.S. Having increased access, especially under certain state laws, may require a card. For those who suffer from extremely debilitating conditions or have limited access to transportation, some states like Michigan are considering home delivery options for medical patients.
Growing Your Own
Although laws from state to state vary, possession and cultivation are allowable for use to alleviate a variety of medical conditions. Those who want to grow any number of cannabis plants for recreational use may find themselves violating state law.
However, many states allow the cultivation and possession of cannabis for those that can prove they have a medically viable reason, such as those with a medical card. As recently as 2019, states such as Arizona have been allowing medical patients a lot more leeway than those looking to grow recreationally. For example, medical patients in Arizona can be approved by their state department or agency to cultivate strains if the patient is more than 25 miles from the nearest dispensary.
In Hawaii, state law requires that an adult (someone who is 18 years of age or older) can have someone else grow cannabis on their behalf. However, the person who is chosen to cultivate the plants cannot be a caregiver for anyone else while caring for the person they are growing for.
After December 2023, this law will expire and caregivers will no longer be allowed to grow on behalf of medical patients unless the patient is a minor or adult with diminished capacities or capabilities. Caregivers must also tag each plant at its base with an approved designation.
Medical patients can grow their own plants if it’s it one of three locations:
- The patient’s residence
- The residence of a designated or approved caregiver
- Any other location that is owned or controlled by the patient or their caregiver
Peace of Mind
At the end of the day, having a medical marijuana card may ensure a lot less anxiety about breaking the law. Things are rapidly changing, and what may fit for one state recreationally may not be the status quo for another. As support swells for legalization federally, many of these laws may not totally apply.
As a medical marijuana card holder, you can be assured that you aren’t breaking any state laws, and to stay compliant, you must be up-to-date on any changes in legislation and policies. Also, if the police or other authorities seize your legal stash, based on laws in your respective state, you may be able to sue (and win) to get it back or be compensated for your loss.
Final Thoughts: Are MMJ Cards Worth It, Even if Weed is Legal Recreationally?
It may seem like a hassle to look into carrying a medical marijuana card, but if you’re suffering from a condition that impedes your ability to fully function each day, waiting on full legalization may not be the best option. If you and your doctor have created a solid treatment plan that includes cannabis, it is worth looking into what your state departments have to offer medically.
Many states are beginning to legalize marijuana in ways that are a great boon to consumers. However, sometimes these policies can include hefty taxes and fees. Recreational users may find themselves on the line for a lot of money with limitations.
Medical patients are, of course, privy to many of the same laws and must exercise discretion. However, many medical patients can avoid lofty fees and taxes. If patients are dealing with fixed incomes or other financial problems due to their conditions, this can be a great way for them to save money and find relief.
Further, medical patients who use cannabis may also have some leeway on possessing, growing and cultivating certain strains, an option not always given to recreational users. Medical patients may also be able to find access that recreational users can’t, including more dispensaries in their respective states and in some cases, home deliveries. This is especially important for medical patients that have limited mobility or transportation options.
As studies on cannabis become more widespread and possible benefits of cannabis products acknowledged, misinformation and fear will continue to lessen. State legislatures and federal authorities are in the midst of a national conversation that may change the weed scene for growers, users, and companies for years to come.
So, if you’ve been wondering whether it’s worth it to get a medical marijuana card if your state is recreational, remember that individuals are already seeing tangible changes, and it is expected to continue. However, change is not always fast in coming and it is to most medical patients benefit to get on board by establishing a legal right to use, carry and cultivate. Medical marijuana users may find that going through the process may yield some also not so tangible results as well. This includes knowing that they are abiding by state law.
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