difference between normal marijuana and medical marijuana

Difference Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana

by Adrian Dimakis January 22, 2020, 8:35 am 2.7k Views

Ever wonder about the differences between medical and recreational marijuana? Nowadays, it’s not common for us to possibly think that there is no difference! That said, there is a huge difference, and if you’re in line for a medical marijuana prescription, you’ll need to understand the difference between both medical and recreational marijuana, and a little about medical marijuana dispensaries.

What Is Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana will have lower tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content and is used for medical purposes to help with health conditions, pain, inflammation or anxiety. It will also yield a higher cannabidiol (CBD) content than regular recreational marijuana. Patients will first need to visit their doctor to apply for a medical marijuana card. You will have to be 18 or older, yet some conditions will allow for patients younger than 18 to purchase medical marijuana from a medical marijuana dispensary.

Medical marijuana can be purchased from any marijuana dispensary in your area. The main take here is that patients need to have a qualifying condition so that they can get a medical marijuana card. The medical marijuana card needs to be renewed regularly, and each state will have different laws. It’s up to you to read up on your state’s laws!

What Is Recreational Marijuana?

This is marijuana that is used for recreational purposes and does not require a medical marijuana card. Users will take this for the psychotic effect because of the higher THC content. You will need to check if it’s legal in your state. If it is, you can purchase recreational marijuana from any recreational marijuana dispensary if you’re over 21, and have a driver’s license to verify your age.

In some US states, it is legal to purchase the recreational pot and grow it at home. With recreational marijuana, there is no need to visit a medical marijuana dispensary. Instead, you’ll visit a recreational marijuana retail store.

THC and CBD Levels

Whether you’re a recreational or medical marijuana user, you’ll need to inspect the product labels for the amount of CBD and THC. The total CBD and THC amount will be written as a percentage on the label. THC dominant marijuana strains will yield more THC and less CBD. These brands will have major psychoactive effects, and will get you “high”.

That said, popular CBD dominant strains have less THC and does not result in any psychoactive effect. If any, they will be minimal, due to the less than 0.3 % THC, if any, in the CBD oil.

Balanced marijuana strains will contain both CBD and THC. These strains do result in a “high”, yet the differences are very apparent from the THC dominant strain. Consult with an expert from a medical marijuana dispensary to discuss dosing, and potencies.

Legal Issues

In the US laws are constantly changing regarding CBD and marijuana. 29 states approve the use of cannabis with a medical prescription card. This means that you will have to visit a medical marijuana dispensary with a medical marijuana card.

As for recreational marijuana is legal in the US, there are a few states that have approved cannabis for recreational use. These states include:

  • Maine
  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Alaska
  • California
  • Nevada
  • Massachusetts
  • Colorado


One of the major differences between recreational and medical marijuana is the amount of CBD and THC. With recreational marijuana being stronger today than many years ago, this type tends to have more THC; it is illegal in some states and countries and is not used for therapeutic purposes. It also gets you high! On the other hand, medical marijuana has been shown to be potentially beneficial for a wide array of health conditions from seizures, cancer, digestive issues, inflammation, anxiety, inflammation and more! CBD oils are made from cannabis, and are high in CBD, and have minimal THC. The medication is used under the supervision of a physician, who will monitor the dosage and potency of the cannabidiol tincture.

A CBD expert from a medical marijuana dispensary will also advise as to the best usage. Price is always a consideration, but if you’re opting for a high-quality CBD tincture, capsule, edible or lotion, it’s important to purchase the best, which may be more expensive.

A CBD expert from a medical marijuana dispensary will be able to advise as to the terpenes and flavonoids in the CBD products, and also should be able to produce a third-party certificate of analysis. (COA) Medical marijuana patients should first determine a price range that works best for them, and then visit a medical marijuana dispensary to purchase the best CBD.

you’ll need to understand the difference between both medical and recreational marijuana, and a little about medical marijuana dispensaries.

There’s No Significant Difference Between Recreational and Medical Marijuana in the US, Study Claims

In recent days, thanks to the restrictive measures Covid-19 has forced authorities to put in place, the distinction between recreational and medicinal cannabis dispensaries has been made drastically clear in parts of the US. In states like Illinois and Massachusetts, medical stores have remained open, after being deemed “essential” businesses, while recreational stores have been forced to close.

But, according to a new study, the only major difference between most recreational and medicinal cannabis products is the store they’re sold in.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study also found that more than 90 percent of the legal cannabis products offered in medical dispensaries vastly exceed the THC levels recommended for chronic pain relief.

M edical marijuana vs recreational marijuana

According to the researchers, cannabis products with 5 percent THC are sufficient enough to reduce chronic pain. Yet their study found that medical dispensaries across the US are advertising products containing 35 percent THC – levels on par with recreational products.

To reach their conclusions, the authors of the study scoured the websites of legal dispensaries in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Colorado, New Mexico, Washington, and California. They then recorded the concentrations of THC and CBD in advertised products. In total, 8,505 cannabis products across 653 dispensaries were sampled.

After analyzing the results, the researchers did find that the average THC concentration in medical products was slightly lower (19.3 percent) than the level found in products from recreational programs (21.5 percent). And the average CBD level in medical products was also slightly higher (2 percent) than in recreational products (1.3 percent).

But, according to the researchers, these averages shouldn’t be given too much heed, as the products’ cannabinoid concentrations varied extensively.

Ultimately, the researchers argue, the levels of THC in products from the medical and recreational stores were startlingly similar – and high. And that finding, they say, is worrying news for medical patients.

“We know that high-potency products should not have a place in the medical realm because of the high risk of developing cannabis-use disorders, which are related to exposure to high THC-content products,” said Edgar Alfonso Romero-Sandoval, an associate professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine and lead author of the study.

No pain, no strain

As the researchers didn’t test the products themselves to validate the advertised THC:CBD content, the study’s conclusions are contingent on the accuracy of the products’ labels.

But, even considering that limitation, Romero-Sandoval and his colleagues are still calling for stricter regulations on medical marijuana products, in order to safeguard patients from developing THC dependencies and cannabis use disorders.

“Better regulation of the potency of medical marijuana products is critical,” Romero-Sandoval said in a statement. “The FDA regulates the level of over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen that have dose-specific side effects, so why don’t we have policies and regulations for cannabis, something that is far more dangerous?”

Cannabis use disorder (CUD) is recognized by the National Institute of Drug Abuse as an illness typified by cravings and withdrawal symptoms when cannabis isn’t taken. As legalization spreads across the United States there have been concerns that rates of CUD will follow and put further pressure on health services.

In a somewhat ironic finding, one recent study did find that the cannabis-based mouth spray Sativex can significantly reduce the rate of relapse for people with a cannabis dependency.

But, that result aside, many drug reformers are still mindful of public health policies that could help tackle cannabis dependence.

“Even a small percentage increase in regular cannabis users can increase the risk of developing problems like cannabis dependence, which services would be unlikely to have the capacity to support,” Ian Hamilton, a senior lecturer in addiction at the University of York, told Analytical Cannabis last year.

“For the small proportion of users who develop problems, support services need to be adequately funded and available – something [US] states and countries should factor in when thinking of changing their cannabis policies.”

Leo Bear-McGuinness

Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Newcastle University and a master’s degree in science communication from the University of Edinburgh.

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There’s No Significant Difference Between Recreational and Medical Marijuana in the US, Study Claims In recent days, thanks to the restrictive measures Covid-19 has forced authorities to put in