What is recreational Cannabis? How it is different from Medical Cannabis?

recreational cannabis

With the states of Washington and Colorado legalizing cannabis in 2014, the world was introduced to recreational cannabis, also known as adult-use cannabis. Since then many states have legalized the use of marijuana both medicinally and recreation-ally. Furthermore, two entire countries have done so, with Uruguay and Canada legalizing the plant for adults 21+ age and older. The regulations are strict though. Most state-sanctioned cannabis programs have already developed an intense regulatory framework for their operating medical marijuana programs which existed prior to adult use regulations being passed.

There is often the question asked, what is the difference between recreational and medical cannabis? Despite the common belief that there is a stronger form of cannabis available to medical marijuana patients, this is simply not true. To answer the question quickly, there is no difference between recreational cannabis and medical cannabis. With regards to a genetic standpoint, there is literally no difference at all between the two types of cannabis. There can be a regulatory difference but this is artificially created by the regulations in place for medical and recreational marijuana. Let’s take a closer look.

Genetic Difference

The cannabis plant is nearly always grown exclusively from previously available genetics and strains. With this, there are few true varieties between medical and recreational cannabis in terms of genetics. Furthermore, there are simply not many differences in the terpenes, cannabinoids, or other chemicals found in the cannabis plant naturally regardless of if it’s a medical or recreational cannabis plant. Sometimes growers will select breeds of cannabis which may be more appealing to medical patients such as low THC strains for patients looking for medical relief without the psychoactive impairment. The bottom line though, growers will usually grow whatever plant has the most demand in relation to its yield.

Regulatory Difference

First, medical programs require a prescription to purchase marijuana which is not the case with adult use programs. Since there is a more intensive process with medical marijuana, patients are usually allowed to carry an increased amount of cannabis such as two ounces or more. While most adult-use programs restrict the recreational user to a single ounce of cannabis flower. There is also an age difference between the two programs. Most medical programs are available for users 18 years and older. While adult-use programs start at 21 years and older before consumers can make a purchase. Finally, there is also usually a dosage limitation placed on recreational edibles. This is not the case for medical programs through which allow any amount of milligrams of THC into a single edible product.

The Real Difference

Most cannabis industries across the united states require that a plant is deemed recreational or medical by cultivation centers once the plant reaches somewhere around 6 inches in height. This means that a plant has had it’s genetic makeup already determined prior to being sent to a medical grow or recreational grow. After a plant has been designated as a medical or recreational market, it cannot switch between the two markets. So, the bottom line is that cannabis regardless if it’s cultivated for medical patients or recreational consumers, simply is the same plant with a different ID tag on it. This should be reassuring for recreational consumers who want the most potent cannabis product, as they are not exclusive to the medical dispensaries.

In closing, it should be noted that each market has it’s uniqueness to it. For example, not all states require vertical integration for their cannabis operations. While others states do. We believe this patchwork of regulations will continue to be the trend until the federal government creates some type of regulatory system. Also, worth considering is the similarities these emerging cannabis markets may take with respect to alcohol coming out of prohibition nearly a century ago. Only time will tell but expect changes coming to the cannabis sector in any scenario.


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