What is Medical Marijuana & How Can You Purchase It?

February 20, 2023

Consuming marijuana for medicinal purposes isn’t new—people have been doing it for centuries. Over the last couple of decades, however, states across the US have been both exploring and enacting medical marijuana programs. So let’s talk about it.

What is Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana is cannabis that is recommended by healthcare providers for qualifying conditions within certain states. The legalization of medical marijuana across the country started in California in the 1990s. The AIDS epidemic had no end in sight, and more importantly, no treatment for those infected with the virus. Patients discovered that by consuming what was then illegal cannabis, they could alleviate some symptoms, including the inability to eat. After a campaign by activists across the state, including the Bay Area AIDS activists, Proposition 215 was penned and passed in November 1996, allowing the medical use of cannabis. 

How Do You Purchase Medical Marijuana?

There is no federal rule for how patients can purchase medical marijuana because cannabis is still considered federally illegal. That’s why states create their own policies and laws that govern their medical marijuana programs. Because each state gets to decide its legislation, the rules can vary, but there are some commonalities. For instance, in order to purchase medical marijuana, most states require you to have a medical marijuana card, carry a state-issued ID, and be of a certain age (typically 18 or older) or a caretaker or guardian of a qualifying patient.

So you might be thinking, okay, all I need is a medical marijuana card? Well, there’s more to it than that. 

What is a Medical Marijuana Card?

A medical marijuana card is your proof that you qualify for medical marijuana in your state. Most medical cannabis dispensaries will not even allow you in the door without a medical marijuana card (or the state’s equivalent of the card). The rules for obtaining a medical marijuana card vary between states, but they all require healthcare provider approval before you can be issued any sort of patient cannabis permit.

How Do You Get a Medical Marijuana Card?

Most states with medical marijuana programs have a governing board that issues and enforces the rules required to get a medical marijuana card. This process always starts by talking to a qualifying, prescribing doctor or healthcare provider. Your doctor must verify that your condition qualifies for the use of medical marijuana and then issue their approval. 

From there, you may need to join a state medical marijuana registry and fill out your own application. This will either connect directly with your doctor’s submitted information or you will have to provide proof yourself that your doctor does, in fact, approve of your medical cannabis need. There may also be a fee to apply for the card and renew the card regularly. Designated caregivers, guardians, and parents can also follow the same process for the patient they are caring for. 

Then, you just have to wait. Once approval goes through, the card will be issued, and you’ll be able to purchase medical marijuana.

What Should I Know About Medical vs Recreational Marijuana?

There are some obvious differences between medical and recreational marijuana. The first is that purchasing medical marijuana requires a medical marijuana card, and recreational (also called adult-use) marijuana purchase typically only requires you to be 21 or older and have a valid, state-issued ID. Beyond that, there are some differences in the programs themselves:

Medical vs Recreational: Product Availability

States that offer a medical marijuana program and a recreational marijuana program typically allow for the same sort of products to be sold, but there are some exceptions. For example, you may not be able to purchase flower in certain states, or other forms of cannabis in other states. 

That said, actually purchasing your product can be a slightly different experience in a medical marijuana dispensary. Some dispensaries have waiting rooms for their patients, so each patient gets individualized attention and, most importantly, privacy when making their decision. 

Medical vs Recreational: Pricing

Depending on the state, pricing can vary drastically between medical and recreational cannabis. When you purchase recreational marijuana, there are a variety of taxes applied to the cannabis that can add up to 37% (sorry, Washington). Many states with medical marijuana programs waive the taxes or greatly reduce the taxes applied to cannabis

Medical vs Recreational: Purchase Amount

Purchase amounts can also have significant differences when it comes to recreational vs medical marijuana. But remember, each state is different. 

For example, recreational consumers in Colorado can purchase:

  • Up to 1 ounce of flower
  • Up to 8 grams of cannabis concentrate
  • Up to 800 milligrams of THC in other products, like edibles

Medical marijuana purchase limits for patients with a Colorado medical marijuana card are:

  • Up to 2 ounces of cannabis flower
  • Up to 9 grams of concentrate
  • Up to 20,000 milligrams of THC in other products, like edibles

Other states, like Michigan, have the same purchase limits for medical patients and adult-use consumers: up to 2.5 ounces of flower per day.

What States Offer Medical Marijuana?

There are currently more states that offer medical marijuana programs than states that offer recreational programs. The good news is states who haven’t approved a program are consistently evaluating their cannabis legislation and weighing the decision to provide medical marijuana to their residents. 

Answering Medical Marijuana FAQs

The rules are constantly changing for medical marijuana, and until they’re federally standardized (and likely after too), we’ll keep answering questions, including: 

How do I know if I qualify for medical marijuana?
You must be seen by a prescribing healthcare provider in order to find out if you qualify for medical marijuana. 

How do I apply for a medical marijuana program?
Each state’s medical marijuana program is different, but in general to apply, you will need to first see a prescribing healthcare provider to validate that you have a qualifying condition. Then, you will need to follow your state’s application process to receive your medical marijuana card. 

Qualifying for Medical Marijuana

While it may seem like a lot of hoops to jump through in your state to qualify for medical marijuana, it is a necessary process to ensure that patients are prescribed what they need. If your state offers a medical marijuana program, evaluate the laws and, if you think you qualify, make an appointment to talk with a healthcare provider. Once you have your medical marijuana card, you can view our menu and even visit one of our locations. We’re always happy to help our patients find what they need. 

Please consume responsibly. This product may cause impairment and may be habit forming. There may be health risks associated with consumption of this product.  State laws impact what dispensaries can and can’t sell to recreational customers and medical marijuana patients. Not every type of product, consumption method, dosage form, or potency mentioned on this blog will be permitted in all locations.

Blog categories