What’s the Difference Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana?

The short (and obvious) answer is what the product is used for — one is used for medicinal purposes, and one is used more leisurely. But beyond that, as legalization stretches across the country and general marijuana use becomes more and more common, it’s important to understand the chief differences between medical and recreational weed to ensure we're using the two safely and smartly. Here are the key medical and recreational marijuana differences following the passage of Prop 207:

  • Age - There is no age limit for becoming an Arizona medical marijuana patient. However, if you are under 18, you must have a legal guardian register as a caregiver. In contrast, in order to purchase recreational marijuana, you must be at least 21 years old (similar to alcohol laws). 
  • Purchase - The amount of marijuana that medical and recreational consumers can purchase at a time varies depending on the state. In Arizona, medical patients can purchase up to two and a half ounces every two weeks, not to exceed 10 ounces a month, whereas recreational consumers can purchase up to one ounce (with no more than five grams being concentrates/extracts). 
  • Taxes - Tax rates tend to vary from state to state. Most states tax medical marijuana at a minimal level or not at all, while adult-use states tend to tax recreational cannabis at so-called sin tax rates, which is 20-35 percent and higher, much like alcohol. In Arizona, patients buying medical marijuana incur only state and local taxes. However, with recreational cannabis, there is a 16 percent excise tax in addition to state and local taxes.
  • Waiting - The demand for recreational cannabis can be very high, so most dispensaries will offer separate lines for medical and recreational consumers to purchase their desired products. 
  • Possession - Medical patients in Arizona can possess up to two and a half ounces and recreational consumers can possess up to one ounce (with no more than five grams being concentrates/extracts). 
  • Cultivation - Medical marijuana patients in Arizona are permitted to grow plants at their home if they live within 25 miles of a dispensary. For recreational users, marijuana can be grown by people at least 21 years of age, but no more than six plants are permitted per individual residence and twelve plants at a residence where two or more people of legal age reside. 
  • Potency - Approved medical vs. recreational potency varies by state but both medical and recreational consumers can purchase cannabis at any potency level in Arizona. However, when it comes to recreational edibles, they are limited to 10 mg of THC per serving and 100 mg per package. 
  • Work - Arizona employees that are medical marijuana patients have protections from employer discrimination under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA). With recreational marijuana, businesses reserve the right to maintain a drug- and alcohol-free workplace. However, in either case, an employer can take action against the employee if they are impaired in the workplace or are in possession of marijuana in the workplace. See also: Smart and Safe Act for additional info.
  • Consumption - If you smoke weed in Arizona, you must do it privately. Smoking is prohibited in any public place and on all forms of public transportation. You also may not medicate while at a dispensary, or they risk losing their license. However, the state does permit medical patients to consume medical marijuana in edible form while in public, so long as they are not operating a vehicle or heavy machinery or doing anything else that could constitute negligence while high.

Now that you’re up to date on the need-to-know when it comes to medical and recreational marijuana, it’s high time you start shoppin’!