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Medical vs. Recreational Cannabis: Your Guide to Their Differences

Cannabis has numerous medical benefits and, over the years as well as due to legislative changes across the country, consumption has risen. In light of this, you are bound to come across mainly two choices - medical cannabis and the recreational variety.

So what exactly is the difference between the two? This guide aims to shed more light on this question. This is especially beneficial for those who are looking into marijuana treatment and recommendations from a physician.

Comparing THC and CBD Levels

One of the main differences between recreational cannabis and medical marijuana is the level of THC and CBD they contain.

THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol) are chemicals that are naturally produced in the cannabis or hemp plant. THC is a psychoactive ingredient and it is what gives that euphoric “high” feeling to people who consume marijuana. CBD, meanwhile, does not have any psychoactive effects.

Consumption of THC also affects one’s motor control, sensory perception, and decision-making capabilities. CBD, however, does not and only makes feel people a bit more relaxed.

Medical marijuana typically contains higher CBD levels as this component provides more health benefits. Cannabidiol has anti-inflammatory properties and can help lessen anxiety. Studies have also shown that CBD has anti-carcinogenic and anti-oxidant properties.

As for recreational marijuana, many of the available products out there has higher THC levels. Although the availability of purely CBD products for recreational uses is on the rise. Some medical cannabis also contains high THC levels, particularly those that are meant for treating severe or chronic pain. These are heavily regulated and will require a medical prescription as is the case with all medical-grade marijuana.

Legality and Availability

To purchase medical marijuana, you must have a medical recommendation from your physician. One has to be more than 18 years old as well to purchase from a dispensary. Special cases may be allowed for younger patients but the application for a marijuana card is required. The details of this vary from one state to another so make sure to further look into your local laws.

As for recreational marijuana, you need to be 21 years old or more to buy them from a dispensary, online or otherwise. Take note as well that not all states have legalized the purchasing of recreational cannabis. In states where it is legal to do so, you can simply visit a dispensary, prove your age by showing your driver’s license and complete the buying process.

It is important to understand that possession of cannabis in areas that do not legalize them will lead to harsh legal penalties, which include expensive fines and jail time. At the moment, CBD hemp products are accepted in 50 American states. Anyone purchasing medical marijuana will be required to provide proof that they are qualified to do so but those who are shopping for recreational products can go about it in a more relaxed manner.

Age Limit

There is no strict age limit imposed on people who use medical marijuana. Any patient, young or old, can undergo cannabis treatment in states where it is legal to do so provided that they have the medical recommendation to prove their need. In many states, medical marijuana is even legal for children.

As for recreational cannabis, there is a strict age limit set. One has to be 21 years old or over to use it.

Shopping Experience

In states where cannabis is legal, there are many dispensaries that you can visit. Medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, for example, are increasing in number and are getting better at serving a wide range of customers. The same is true in other states that have legalized cannabis.

To purchase medical marijuana products, the shopping experience often involves visiting your dispensary of choice and showing an ID for identity and age verification. Patients will need to show their prescription and/or cannabis card as well.

Often, dispensaries will process customers one at a time to respect an individual’s privacy. Dispensaries with medical marijuana licenses are qualified to provide some medical advice to their customers as well. Meanwhile, those who purely sell recreational products should not be giving any medical advice.

If you are buying cannabis products from a recreational dispensary, there is no need to show any prescription. However, you’ll still need to provide a personal ID.

There are also dual-licensed shops out there that can sell both medical and recreational marijuana. Their staff will most likely be very well trained and vetted to ensure that they have the qualifications to give medical advice regarding cannabis products and associated treatments.

If you are purchasing online, the process is even more convenient. Still, you need to provide proof of your identity and age upon checkout. For anyone buying medical marijuana from an online dispensary, a copy of your prescription is often required.


Purchasing medical marijuana can entitle you to certain consumer perks such as discounted prices and lower product taxes. This is generally not available to those buying recreational cannabis.

Minors suffering from chronic illnesses such as cancer and epilepsy can also purchase the products they need without suffering legal consequences so long as they present their marijuana card. Recreational users, however, need to be 21 or above to purchase.

Another advantage for patients is that they can obtain products with higher THC levels as prescribed by their doctor. Restrictions on THC consumption are more stringent on recreational users though.

Growers also have the qualifications to cultivate cannabis plants on a larger scale if they are focused on medical marijuana but those who are in the recreational space have lower farming limits.

The Naturaleaf - Medical Marijuana Dispensary in Colorado

If you are looking into medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, The NaturaLeaf is here to serve you.

We believe that our patients always come first and so we strive to provide you with the best one-on-one service from start to finish. We provide nothing but the highest quality of medicine and our staff will help you decide on the most effective treatment plans.

We also have excellent non-member and member reward benefits to show everyone how much we appreciate your trust in our services.

If you are interested in becoming a NaturaLeaf Reward Member or want to know more about services and treatment plans, do not hesitate to get in touch. Our knowledgeable staff is ready to provide satisfactory assistance.