What’s the difference between recreational and medical marijuana?

            Yesterday, at a presentation, I had a student ask me a question that I haven’t been asked in a while. He said, “If somebody gets marijuana from a dispensary, how is it different from if they get it from the streets?” I was happy to answer his question, but then I had a thought. “What if I was an average person who wasn’t studying drug and alcohol information for a living, how difficult would it be for me to answer that question?” So, I started to do some research, to see how hard it would be to find that information again.

Medical marijuana


I searched YouTube and searched: “Difference between medical and recreational marijuana” and a Dr. OZ video popped up. He said there are a few main differences, the first being that medical marijuana is used to treat an ailment whereas recreational marijuana is used to get high. He basically spent the rest of the video talking about the fact that marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug, which makes it really hard to obtain for studies. But, as far as actual differences between the plant itself, Dr. Oz didn’t really have much to say. The example that he gave was the difference between how people use the plant.



            Then I went to another YouTube video by Cannabis.net. I thought that maybe as a pro-marijuana page, it would be able to shed at least a little bit of light on the differences. However, this video said there are two main differences between medical marijuana and recreational. It said first, a person must be diagnosed with a qualifying disease or condition in order to get medical marijuana, and secondly, medical marijuana must be purchased from a medical dispensary, not a recreational dispensary. This seems like it at least explained a restriction to getting medical marijuana for recreational purposes. But in reality, it didn’t, because it’s super easy to get a medical marijuana card. Some of the qualifying conditions could be anything from as serious as glaucoma to as benign as someone saying, “Sometimes I get really bad headaches.”

Bottom Line

            The bottom line is, it’s really hard to find the information out there about if there are any differences between medical and recreation marijuana. Then, I Googled, “Where do medical dispensaries get their marijuana?” and the answer was one of two things:

  • They either grow it themselves


  • They can have the patients grow a small amount, and give it back to the dispensary, which is known as “collective gardening.”

I’m not aware of any other drug lets the patients taking the drug also be the ones who create it. Even essential oils are manufactured by professionals.

So, here’s the difference between medical and recreational marijuana:  There is none

There is absolutely no difference between the marijuana that someone would purchase in a medical dispensary and the ones that the drug cartels ship over and sell on the streets. The only difference is what it says on the packaging.