Should I Get an MMJ Card If Cannabis Is Recreational?

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For those who live in a state where the adult use of cannabis is legal, but who are also eligible for a medical marijuana card, is it worth the hassle of applying for the card? Those fortunate enough to have the option have several considerations to weigh before making that decision.

There are several essential things to consider before making a decision on whether to apply for an MMJ card.

This guide is designed to help those that already have an MMJ card or are considering applying for one. Continue reading below, or use the Table of Contents to skip to relevant sections of the post.

Is It Cheaper to Buy Medical Marijuana or Recreational Marijuana?

The costs associated with getting a medical marijuana (MMJ) card include doctors’ consultation fees and application fees. If patients want to assign a caregiver, there is an added fee. Then there is the matter of the card renewal process. In some states, the entire package can cost over $300. This usually equates to $200 for the doctor consultation and $100 for the state MMJ application. However, the price of both of these can vary significantly, so check your state’s programs for more information.

MMJ cardholders tend to pay less for their medical cannabis due to lower tax rates. For example, in Illinois, recreational customers pay 10% extra for cannabis flower, 20% more for edibles, and 25% extra for any product with more than 35% THC. Once local and state taxes are included, recreational customers could end up paying over 40% above the retail price. Similarly, Washington state residents are subject to a 37% sales tax on all recreational cannabis products.

In comparison with buying recreationally, approved medicinal cannabis patients may experience substantial savings. However, if annual cannabis use is minimal, the savings may not outweigh the expense of getting the MMJ card.

For those considering whether or not to apply for an MMJ card in a recreationally legal state, we recommend coming up with a ballpark figure of anticipated monthly cannabis use. After factoring in the MMJ application cost, compare recreational and medical prices to determine whether the MMJ route is cost-effective.

Do Medical Marijuana Patients Get Better Cannabis than Recreational Customers?

Perhaps a more critical factor in this debate is to consider the different products that are often available to medical customers. Even in adult-use (recreational) states, select products are often only available to MMJ cardholders.

Depending on the medical condition, this can make a difference in terms of the quality of care that a patient receives. The extremely potent act of dabbing, for instance, has become popular among medical users. As a result, some patients are looking for the most reliable and potent concentrates available, and often, those with a valid MMJ card are more likely to find them.

Can You Buy More Cannabis if You Have a Medical Marijuana Card?

Those who qualify as a medical patient can generally purchase more marijuana than recreational users. California MMJ cardholders, for instance, can buy up to eight ounces of cannabis per day. In contrast, recreational users can only buy one ounce per day. In Colorado, medical marijuana patients can buy up to two ounces, compared to a single ounce for recreational users.


If a medical patient uses a lot of cannabis and doesn’t live near a quality dispensary, they can save a lot of time by not having to drive long distances regularly. In a situation like this, it is much more practical to get approved for an MMJ card rather than buy as a recreational customer.

Can You Get Medical Marijuana in More Than One State?

Please note that federal law supersedes state law when it comes to cannabis. Therefore, in most instances, users cannot cross state lines with cannabis, even as a valid MMJ cardholder.

One thing users can potentially do with an MMJ card, however, is to use it in another state. This means they can use the MMJ card issued to them in their home state, to buy cannabis from a medical dispensary in another state.

Of course, this is not applicable in all states; it depends on whether the state has a reciprocity agreement with other MMJ state(s). States such as Alaska, Arkansas, California, and Colorado, for example, have such reciprocity agreements in place.

Is It Easier to Find a Dispensary with an MMJ Card?

Even in adult-use states, some dispensaries are only accessible for medical marijuana cardholders. Though the number of these MMJ-only dispensaries is declining, it remains true that MMJ patients often have more choice than recreational-only customers. Also, most states enable patients aged 18+ to apply for an MMJ card, whereas customers are not permitted to use the substance in any adult-use state until they are 21 years of age.

Can I Grow Cannabis at Home with an MMJ Card?

Another significant advantage of holding an MMJ card is the ability to grow plants in a private residence. While it is true that some states allow both recreational and medical users to home-cultivate, recreational users typically are not allowed to grow as much as MMJ cardholders. For example, in California, recreational users can grow up to six plants at home, while MMJ cardholders can dedicate up to 100 square feet of space to home cultivation.

What Are the Disadvantages of Having an MMJ Card in an Adult Use State?

We have read some misinformation suggesting it is legal to use medical marijuana in public areas. This is not true in most U.S. states, where cannabis use in public is illegal regardless of whether or not a user has an MMJ card. It is a slightly different situation in Canada, where those with medical marijuana cards can use cannabis in public spaces (as long as they avoid areas designated as ‘No Smoking’ areas).

It is also important to point out that MMJ patients may be required to give up their Second Amendment right to bear arms. At the time of writing, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) does not allow MMJ cardholders to own a firearm.

Final Thoughts on Whether It’s Better to Buy Medical Marijuana or Recreational Marijuana

Whether it is worth getting a MMJ card in a recreational state depends on a few different things. The most salient point is how much cannabis a patient plans on using annually.

If a patient consumes an ounce or more per month, it makes financial sense in most cases to apply for an MMJ card.

Also, MMJ cardholders often have a wider range of dispensaries and cannabis products to choose from. For patients that suffer from severe medical conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, depression, etc., this can make all the difference in the world in terms of the quality of therapy that’s available.

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