Recreational vs. Medical Cannabis: Dispelling the Myth, Defining the Differences


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Recreational vs. Medical Cannabis: Dispelling the Myth, Defining the Differences

By Margo Amala

Using cannabis is becoming a mainstream option for those of us fortunate enough to live in a state with legal marijuana. The vast spectrum of people who come through our dispensary range the whole spectrum of diversity: young adults to aging adults, professionals to students, and people of all socioeconomic status. While the stereotype of cannabis users as long-haired hippies may linger, that is most certainly not the actual profile of your average cannabis user in 2019. In most states with legal marijuana, users are either medical marijuana patients or recreational marijuana users. This is a gross over-exaggeration and hardly the truth of the matter. Each person comes to cannabis for their own unique reasons. Many of the “recreational users” that come into my Portland dispensary Urban Farmacy are seeking some sort of relief that a person might consider to be “medical.”

Embracing Legalization

Legalization has its roots in medical marijuana programs across all states in the United States. Nearly every state has followed a timeline where they begin to embrace legalization by creating a medical marijuana program. Then over time, recreational legislation is proposed and, in some states, passed and implemented. After the implementation of recreational marijuana, in some states such as Washington and Oregon, the medical programs are minimized, restricted, and shuffled into the recreational programs, much to the dismay of the medical patients. The bizarre contradiction here is: initially, in a state with only legal medical marijuana, you can term all cannabis as medicine. Only people with qualifying conditions receive access to cannabis. Then suddenly, when they legalize recreational cannabis, all the talk of medicine disappears, and they can no longer legally promote the medicinal properties of cannabis.

Medical Users vs. Recreational Users

In the state of Oregon, there is even a totally separate set of rules that govern medical users vs. recreational users. In order to sell cannabis to “recreational users” a dispensary must have an OLCC recreational marijuana retail license, which governs us by the OLCC Division 25 Recreational Marijuana Rules. While we carry a “medical” endorsement on our license, that only impacts the potency of products and purchase limits for Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) card holders. As rules have evolved, the OLCC has added rules that prohibit dispensaries with a recreational license, regardless of the medical endorsement, from making claims about the curative or therapeutic properties of cannabis. When the medical rules initially governed us, all we did was talk about the medicinal properties of cannabis because that was the only legal use! During the pre-recreational, medical-only years, cannabis was called “medicine.”

Now we can’t even consider calling cannabis medicine without the threat of violation! The irony is: it’s all the same cannabis and cannabis products. Cannabis is medicine for some people; for some, it is a good time, and for many, it is both. Different people use cannabis for different reasons, in different doses and quantities. Yet, the cannabis lingo continues to be regulated and manipulated. In the end, it is all just semantics. As such, if you are a follower of our blog, you may have noticed some of the disease-specific blogs have had to come down. Unfortunately, as the cannabis plant is slowly coming out of the closet and into the spotlight of rapidly growing cannabis enterprises, it seems we are moving two steps forward and one step back.

If you have any questions about how cannabis impacts you and your circumstances, please stop by the store and ask one of our knowledgeable budtenders. They cannot give medical advice, nor claim any curative properties of cannabis, however, they are well-educated about cannabis and how it impacts our bodies and our experiences. Providing cannabis education is a core value at Urban Farmacy. 

Oregon Medical Marijuana Program Benefit

For those of you who might be weighing the option of getting an Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) card in the state of Oregon, here is a summary of the benefits offered to OMMP patients. The current OMMP program is available to anyone who has a qualifying condition. Fees paid to the OMMP range from $20 – $200, depending on your personal situation. You may need to send your medical records to a special clinic that writes medical marijuana recommendations. Any licensed medical doctor can sign your physician’s statement as long as you meet the qualifications; however, many doctors will not. This is why medical marijuana clinics exist. Once you become an OMMP patient, the benefits you receive are as follows:

  • Purchase cannabis and cannabis products at Oregon dispensaries tax-free.
  • You may purchase up to 8 ounces or 224 grams of cannabis flower at a dispensary per day, not to exceed 32 ounces per month. A recreational user may only purchase 28 grams (or 1 ounce) of cannabis flower at a dispensary.
  • You may purchase cannabis products such as edibles with a higher potency than a recreational user.
  • You may grow up to 6 mature plants and up to 12 vegetative plants, certain limits may depend on your zoning and living situation: see OMMP plant limit chart. This compares to the 4 total plants permitted to a recreational user. If you are a recreational user and would like to know more about your limits of possession, see this OLCC FAQ page.  
  • You may designate another person to grow your cannabis for you.
  • You may designate one “caregiver” who can purchase and/or carry cannabis for you. 

Cannabis makes a difference in the lives of many people, medical and recreational users alike. Both anecdotal experiences and scientific studies show that cannabis has a vast array of uses: all valuable to our human experience. Whatever your reason for using cannabis, I wish you the best possible experience!

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