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Medical Marijuana vs. Recreational: Key Differences

As marijuana (also called cannabis) becomes increasingly decriminalized throughout the nation, more and more states have legalized it for medical purposes. Some states have even legalized recreational cannabis for adults aged 21 and older. You’ve probably heard both of these terms, but you may not understand the critical differences between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.

Here at LeafMed, a Mississippi medical marijuana dispensary, we’re dedicated to providing all the information you need to decide if medical cannabis suits your health needs. This article focuses on medical marijuana vs. recreational marijuana and what they mean for Mississippi residents.

The Legal Differences Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana

The federal government lists cannabis as a controlled substance, so marijuana may or may not be legal, depending on the state. Although some members of Congress hope to legalize marijuana at the federal level, the legality question rests with state governments for now. 

More than 35 states in the U.S. have created medical marijuana programs that allow people to legally purchase and use cannabis for medical purposes. Mississippi joined this group in early 2022 when it introduced the Mississippi Medical Marijuana Program. This program allows doctors to legally prescribe cannabis to patients with medical marijuana cards to help with chronic pain, cancer, PTSD, and other qualifying conditions. 

On the other hand, recreational marijuana remains illegal in Mississippi and many other states, although 19 states have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use. In many cases, recreational cannabis laws include stricter restrictions than medical marijuana, including how much consumers can purchase at once and where they can legally use the products. 

The Content Differences Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana

The legal aspects of medical marijuana vs. recreational marijuana don’t encompass all the differences between the two. Medical marijuana may offer a different cannabinoid content than recreational cannabis. 

Marijuana contains many chemicals (cannabinoids) that affect the body in different ways, the most well-understood being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). THC content causes the psychoactive effects associated with marijuana, but it can also reduce pain. CBD provides other medical benefits, such as relief from symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, neuropathy, and other conditions. CBD does not cause psychoactive effects.

You may find cannabis-derived products with lower concentrations of THC and higher concentrations of CBD on the medical side—and the opposite on the recreational side. Smokeable products generally contain 15% or more THC and insignificant amounts of CBD. 

Other products, such as topicals and edibles, may be formulated with lower THC levels and more CBD. If a product says it’s hemp-derived, that means it legally has less than 0.3% THC. Hemp is a low-THC form of cannabis.

The Age Use Differences Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana

In states allowing legal recreational marijuana use, you must be at least 21 years old. Medical marijuana products, on the other hand, have seen a rise in helping people of all ages, including children. Low-THC and high-CBD medical cannabis products help kids suffering from cancer, seizures, and other health conditions. 

Researchers continue to study cannabis’s beneficial effects in helping with a wide variety of health conditions. 

The Buying Differences Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana

If you want to purchase medical marijuana in Mississippi or another legal state, you’ll need your ID and your medical marijuana card. Customers without medical marijuana cards cannot access medical cannabis dispensaries, even in states that allow legal recreational consumption. This rule ensures medical privacy for consumers using marijuana to help with their health conditions. 

If your state has legalized recreational marijuana, you can purchase higher-THC cannabis products at recreational dispensaries. You will need your photo ID to prove you are over 21. 

LeafMed Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in MS

Now that you understand the primary differences between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana, be sure to learn when medical cannabis can be prescribed. At LeafMed, we’ll help you determine if a medical cannabis prescription might help alleviate your physical or mental health struggles. 

To purchase medical marijuana in Mississippi, visit a LeafMed dispensary in Bay St. Louis, Vicksburg, or Gulfport.