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Weighing Medical vs Recreational Marijuana

60% of Americans supported the legalization of marijuana in 2016. With more and more states legalizing recreational marijuana, many people are now faced with the dilemma of whether to pursue (or continue pursuing) a medical marijuana card or whether they should self medicate. Traditional recreational marijuana contains more THC and less CBD than medicinal marijuana. Now that both options are becoming viable, a conscious choice must be made. We break down the pros and cons of each:

Medical Marijuana:


  • Efficacy
    • Individuals with medical marijuana cards are approved to purchase twice the amount of marijuana as compared to recreational users. If you are trying to treat chronic health issues, standard doses may not be strong enough.
  • Money
    • In Colorado, medical marijuana faces a 2.9% sales tax, in addition to local sales tax. This number is much lower than the 15% excise tax and 10% sales tax facing recreational use.
  • Doctor
    • With medical marijuana, you have access to a doctor who can help you properly monitor your symptoms and how your body is reacting to cannabis use.
  • Age
    • You must be 21 to use marijuana recreationally, but only 18 to use it medically. While using marijuana too young is associated with health risks, 18 year olds with chronic health issues could benefit.


  • Doctor
    • While having a doctor may be a benefit for some, it may be a con for others. Some individuals do not feel comfortable speaking with a doctor about their health issues and desired cannabis use, making this requirement difficult to meet.
  • Cost of Card
    • Not only do you have to pay for your medical card the first time around, but you must renew it on a regular basis. While this fee has dropped in some states, you must still pay a yearly fee to maintain your card, which might make occasional use more expensive than necessary.
  • ‘Approved’ Ailment
    • Going through a doctor requires that you not only find a doctor willing to recommend medical cards in general, but that you also find a doctor who understands your condition and agrees that it meets ‘approved medical marijuana’ standards.

Recreational Marijuana:


  • Agency
    • Many who turn to self medication do so because they have sought help before, but have been let down by the medical system. Doctors cannot always figure out what is wrong, but you know you’re body. Self medication allows you to take care of yourself when others cannot.
  • Insurance
    • Seeing a doctor on a regular basis to discuss your medical use can quickly become expensive, especially without comprehensive medical insurance. Plus, the cost of doctor visits isn’t countered with marijuana prescriptions. You still have to purchase the medicine yourself – even if it’s at a lower tax rate. Monetary needs can truly determine a lot in this case.


  • Taxes
    • As mentioned above, recreational marijuana is subject to much heavier taxation than medical marijuana. These additional taxes can add up quickly, especially with consistent usage.
  • Symptoms
    • With self medicating, you run the risk of masking important symptoms. Without a doctor monitoring your health and your marijuana usage, you could be masking important clues to your health.
  • Stigma
    • Stigmas regarding marijuana still exist across age board; however, many are more open to medical marijuana than they are to recreational marijuana. Without a medical card, you will face the full brunt of stigmas about marijuana.

Some say intent alone can determine whether someone wants to attain a medical marijuana card or whether they want to continue ‘self-prescribing’. While this may be true for individuals who truly just want the high, there is more behind the decision than meets the eye. Only you can decide what is best for you individually, but TerpHouse is here to support you and answer any questions you may have in the process.