Q. I’m thinking of getting a Washington state medical cannabis card. Is there a difference between medical cannabis and recreational/adult-use cannabis in terms of the plant? What else do I need to know about getting a medical card? Signed, Medical Max
A. Let’s start with the differences. There isn’t any! The plant remains the same – what is different is the purpose.
Medical marijuana is used for a medical condition. A shop authorized to provide medical marijuana can recommend certain strains and methods of consumption specific to address certain conditions. For instance, joint pain often responds well to cannabis that is higher in CBD. If the patient is concerned about getting high, staff might recommend a CBD-dominant strain. Patients seeking to substitute cannabis for opiods may respond better to a strain higher in THC.
Washington has had a medical cannabis program since 1998 and was one of the first states to legalize recreational adult-use cannabis in 2012.
As the market matured, medical cannabis merged with the recreational cannabis market.
This means that many medical-only dispensaries closed or adapted to cater to both medical and recreational users. There are 176 medically-endorsed cannabis stores in Washington, which means a certified medical cannabis consultant is always on staff and can issue medical cards to patients with qualifying conditions. Visit doh.wa.gov/MedicalMarijuana to find a current list of medically endorsed stores.
Qualifying medical conditions here include cancer, HIV, MS, epilepsy and seizures, spasticity disorders, intractable pain, glaucoma, Chron’s disease, hepatitis C, anorexia/wasting syndrome, chronic renal failure, PTSD, and traumatic brain Injury.
While there is no state registration fee for a medical cannabis card, you will have to pay doctor’s fees which usually range from about $100 to $250.
By now you are probably asking,”Why would I go through the trouble of getting a medical card when I can just walk into a dispensary if I’m 21-plus?” Good question! There are three main differences between medical cannabis patients and adult users.
• Recreational users must pay a 37 percent sales tax on cannabis items; it’s less for those with a medical marijuana recognition.
• Medical patients can purchase three times the amount of cannabis flower and associated products than recreational users. For flower, it is 3 ounces versus 1 ounce.
• Medical patients can grow plants for their personal use (or up to 15 plants with a doctor’s permission) while general adult users are forbidden from growing their own.
The reasons to choose one over another are completely about your personal needs and level of comfort. Whatever you decide, your first few experiences will be about figuring out what cannabis product(s) you want to use and how much to use.
The goal is to find the lowest dosage that delivers the desired results. Some doctors will be able to help, but don’t be surprised if your doctor is not well-versed in cannabis.
Whether they are or not, it is always a good idea to be your own advocate. Check out Project CBD and Leafly.com for more information on speaking with your doctor, visiting a shop and choosing your medicine and method of consumption.
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