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Should You Keep a Medical Card When Recreational is Legalized?

why keep a medical card if your state goes recreational

The first step in state cannabis legalization is the launch of medical cannabis programs. For most states, it can take years for the laws to be written and approved. And even after the laws are ratified, it may be 1-2 years before patients are able to purchase medical marijuana.

If the medical cannabis programs are successful, some states will move ahead to consider legalizing non-medical use. This is called adult use or recreational marijuana, where any state resident over the age of twenty-one (21) years can purchase marijuana products at a licensed dispensary.

Since medical marijuana is only an option for qualified patients, new medical cannabis programs see high enrollment. But when recreational legalization happens, patients may ask themselves, “Why am I paying for a medical card?”

Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of having a medical cannabis card. And why it is a good idea for patients to stay with doctor-guided medical marijuana services.

mmj products

The Benefits of Having a Medical Marijuana Card

The freedom of being able to visit any dispensary without a medical card is appealing. No need to pay the annual fee to remain on the patient registry. And also no need to pay for your annual appointment or follow-up with your marijuana doctor.

But there are eight major benefits you get as a medical cannabis patient. And when patients consider the advantages of having a medical card in a state where recreational marijuana is legalized, many choose to remain in the patient registry.

1. Access to Specialized Medical-Only Cannabis Products

While some states have imposed a cap or limit to the maximum potency of THC in medical cannabis products, other states have not. In fact, if you are a patient on the MMJ registry, you may have special access to higher potencies by request.

For example, if your physician feels that the maximum allowable THC potency is insufficient to provide relief, he or she may recommend a higher dose. Often this is done through a special approval process and is typically reserved for patients with severe symptoms. Or those who are receiving hospice or compassionate care.

2. Tax Exemptions and Lower-Priced Medical Marijuana

Saving money is important to everyone, but especially for patients with chronic health conditions. The Department of Health agencies know that keeping medical marijuana affordable for all patients matters. It must remain economically accessible to help patients and improve their quality of life.

Recreational marijuana is not tax-exempt. In fact, most states impose an excise tax on all recreational marijuana products. For example, an individual may pay a 10% sales tax and an additional 15% (or higher) cannabis excise tax.

Some states, like New York, charge a 7% excise tax on all cannabis sales, whether recreational or medicinal, in addition to the state sales tax. And in many states, local municipalities can also charge an additional 2% to 5% tax on all cannabis sales. The funds are allocated for law enforcement and local community needs.

legality and taxes

How Much Excise Tax is Added to Recreational Marijuana Purchases?

According to TaxFoundation.org, in 2023, all states imposed one form or another of excise taxes on medical cannabis and recreational marijuana products. Some excise taxes are uniform (applying to all sales), and other types are taxed based on the quantity or potency of cannabis purchased.

Some examples of the high cost of adult-use cannabis excise taxes include:

  • Montana – 20%
  • Virginia – 21%
  • Washington – 37%

Illinois, for example, has a multi-tiered tax structure for recreational marijuana purchases. Residents of Illinois pay a 10% excise tax on cannabis flower and products with less than 35% THC content. Purchases of cannabis-infused products, like edibles, are taxed at 20%, and all products sold by a licensed cannabis business with a THC potency of >35% are taxed at a rate of 25%.

States like New Jersey have eliminated excise taxes entirely on cannabis products for registered patients. Patients with a New Jersey medical card pay 0% excise tax, while recreational marijuana costs an extra 6.25% excise tax.

With few exceptions, medical and recreational marijuana purchases are taxed at different rates. With the goal of keeping medical cannabis use affordable for patients. Individuals purchasing recreational cannabis will pay higher costs. Your medical marijuana card will save you money.


3. Higher Purchase Limits at Licensed Dispensaries

Medical marijuana programs limit the amount of cannabis that a patient can purchase within a set period. For example, in Florida, patients can buy no more than 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower every thirty-five days. However, Florida patients can also apply for an exception to this rule with the approval of their specialized cannabis physician.

In California, the purchase and possession of adult-use (recreational marijuana) is limited to 28.5 grams or 1.055 ounces. Residents may also own up to six mature cannabis plants. Patients with a medical card in California, by comparison, may possess up to 8 ounces of dried cannabis flower and six mature plants or up to 12 cannabis seedlings.

The possession and purchase limits vary by state. But patients with a qualifying condition are usually accommodated with higher purchase and possession limits for cannabis products. And in some cases, limits can be adjusted at the discretion of the patient’s doctor.

4. Lower Age Restrictions and Pediatric Care

Recreational marijuana is only available to adults aged twenty-one (21) and older. Patients may qualify for medical marijuana at eighteen (18) years old. Patients who are eighteen or older can apply independently, and there is no requirement for parental consent.

Patients who are under the age of eighteen require a caregiver or adult guardian. The caregiver also joins the MMJ registry with permission to purchase medical marijuana to assist minors and adults requiring full-time care by a parent or legal guardian.

When you are approved for a medical marijuana card, you have legal access to doctor-supervised cannabis three years earlier than recreational marijuana users. And children approved for pediatric alternative medicine can be treated at the discretion of their family and the supervising physician.

This is a benefit for any pediatric patient facing debilitating health conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, juvenile arthritis, and more. Legal guardians may not purchase adult-use marijuana to administer to a child, even if they are the primary caregiver. It is illegal to do so, and the criminal penalties are punitive.

5. More Legal Protections In and Out of State

Some states have reciprocity for medical marijuana. That means if you have a medical card that is in good standing (not expired), you may be able to purchase medical cannabis when you visit another state legally.

State reciprocity is not unilateral; not all states have reciprocal agreements to accept out-of-state visitors with medical marijuana cards. However, if you are planning to vacation in another state, you can research reciprocity rules. Some states also provide temporary “tourist” cannabis cards for medical patients who are visiting.

To learn more about protections for patients visiting another state, visit the website for the state medical cannabis program. You can also contact the state regulators to answer any questions you have about visiting a dispensary away from home.

medical guidance

6. Professional Medical Guidance and Advice

If you have your medical marijuana card, you may be wondering why you have to schedule a follow-up appointment once per year with DocMJ. Our physicians know that symptoms can change, and patients may face new diagnoses over time.

The medical guidance and advice you get from a specialized marijuana doctor can be lifesaving. Reviewing your symptoms helps the physician provide recommendations that may be more effective for you. And help you reach your symptom management goals.

By staying with the same medical cannabis practitioner, you get customized care from a doctor who knows and understands your condition(s). Most patients prefer to return to the same doctor every year for that care.

7. Monitoring for Conflicts and Symptom Changes

Did you know that cannabis can conflict with certain prescription medications? Cannabinoids can provide powerful wellness benefits, but they can also reduce how effective your medications are.

If you have been prescribed a new medication, you can schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor to review it. It is an important check-in to make sure you are not risking complications or problems using medical marijuana now or in the future.

There may be certain routes or types of medical marijuana that can be more beneficial for your needs. Specialized alternative medicine practitioners are also knowledgeable about specific strains of cannabis that may help. And provide advice to help you make the most of your medical marijuana purchases.

8. Purchase Priority for Registered Patients

Medical cannabis dispensaries are required by state law to maintain a specific inventory and quantity of cannabis products, specifically for patients that have a medical card.

You may remember that during the Covid-19 pandemic, recreational marijuana dispensaries were forced to close. Medical cannabis dispensaries, however, were permitted to stay open, as they were designated an “essential service.”

Cannabis cultivation can face setbacks from natural disasters and other causes. Demand can exceed supply in certain states. However, medical marijuana patients are given top priority to ensure they have the medicinal products they rely on.

Is It Worth the Expense of Keeping Your Medical Marijuana Card?

When you consider all the advantages that having a medical cannabis card provides, you may opt to keep your card, even if your state legalizes recreational cannabis. The tax savings alone are greater than the cost of your annual registration fee and the appointment with a caring marijuana doctor.

Updating your recommendation or renewing your medical cannabis card is easier than going through the application process again after you have allowed your card to expire. And it costs less as well. Protect your health by keeping the same healthcare provider you trust with DocMJ.


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