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What is the Difference Between Medical vs. Recreational Marijuana?

Meet Peter. Over the past few years, he’s suffered from chronic pain due to a medical condition. He’s tried everything from prescription medication to over-the-counter painkillers, but nothing seems to work. He has heard of the benefits of medical marijuana from a friend and has considered trying it out.

So, he opens his laptop, Googles medical marijuana, and finds hundreds of results. From one page to the other, he gets confused between medical and recreational marijuana, as most people describe it similarly. We’ve all been in this predicament, even if we don’t admit it. The good news is this article will highlight the difference between medical and recreational marijuana. You’ll also have an understanding of how to get a medical marijuana in the state of Utah. Let’s dive in!

Differences Between Medical Vs. Recreational Marijuana

The differences between the two include the following:


While medical and recreational marijuana may have the same word at the end, the two have different meanings. Medical marijuana is a broad term that’s used to describe cannabis-based medical products that relieve symptoms of mental and physical issues. It can also be referred to as medical cannabis.

Recreational marijuana, on the other hand, refers to cannabis used for enjoyment instead of any medical purpose. It is also commonly referred to as pot, weed, and dope.

Purpose of Use

Another significant difference between medical and recreational marijuana is its purpose of use. The purpose of use for people who purchase medical marijuana is to help alleviate symptoms from chronic medical conditions or treat a medical condition like epilepsy. While people use recreational marijuana to get high thanks to its psychoactive effects.

Since medical marijuana is used for medicinal purposes, a doctor or a healthcare professional has to prescribe it. And in multiple states across the U.S., this can only be done if you have a medical marijuana card.

What is a medical marijuana card? This is a state-issued ID card that allows patients with a doctor’s or healthcare professional’s recommendation to possess or obtain marijuana for medical purposes. Every state processes its medical marijuana card differently. For instance in Utah, to get a medical marijuana card, you must first prove that you are a resident. You can do this with your driver’s license or national ID.

Your medical marijuana doctor will complete the online registration, and you will need to pay a $15 state fee to get the medical marijuana card. The state will then proceed to review your application. If you do qualify, you will be notified of the approval within a few weeks.


In most states across the U.S., the legal limit for the use of medical marijuana is 18 years and above. Patients under 18 must have a legal guardian registered as their caregiver. Also, all medical marijuana products like CBD must be bought from a medical dispensary.

Unlike medical marijuana, the legal age for recreational cannabis is 21 years old. This is pretty similar to the general alcohol laws most states have in place.

Amount of Purchase

The amount of medical vs. recreational marijuana one can purchase simultaneously varies from state to state. For instance, in Utah, the recommended amount of medical marijuana patients can buy is no more than 113 grams during a 30-day period. On the other hand, purchasing recreational marijuana is illegal.

But, there are states where recreational marijuana is legal. In such states, you can only purchase up to an ounce.


Marijuana taxes tend to differ from state to state. Some states tax medical marijuana minimally compared to recreational marijuana, which can receive close to 20 to 35% more taxes. The reason for this is that some states look at purchasing recreational marijuana, like buying tobacco or alcohol.

For instance, in Arizona, patients buying medical marijuana only incur local and state taxes. But for recreational marijuana, there is a 16% excise tax in addition to local and state taxes.


The potency restrictions of medical vs. recreational marijuana vary from state to state. For example, in Utah, the potency level for medical marijuana should be less than 0.3% THC. Also, all CBD products have to meet all the testing, labeling, and other requirements to qualify as medical marijuana.

In states like Arizona, patients using medical marijuana can purchase products with a high THC concentration to help ease their symptoms. But, when it comes to recreational marijuana products like edibles, consumers are limited to 100 mg per package.


The cultivation process of medical vs. recreational marijuana also varies. Some states, like Arizona, allow medical marijuana patients to grow plants if they live 25 miles from a medical marijuana dispensary. For recreational cannabis, the people who grow them have to be 21 years and above. They also can’t plant more than six individually and more than 12 cannabis plants in a residence where two or more individuals are of legal age.

Now that you know the difference between medical and recreational marijuana, knowing which products to purchase is easier.

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