Over the past 20 years, cannabis has become medically legal or recreationally legal in more than half of the United States. Some states have even legalized both medical and recreational (a.k.a. adult-use) cannabis. Although the plant is still federally illegal, states have been given the opportunity to decide how the plant is used. We’re here to help walk you through the medical vs. adult-use cannabis process. 

There is no difference between the product of medical or adult-use marijuana, the difference lies in how the product can be used. 

Medical Cannabis: What Is It?

Medical cannabis is given to those who hold a medical card for qualifying conditions. Each state has different conditions in which a person can apply for a medical card, but common conditions include but are not limited to: 

  • Cancer and cancer treatment
  • Epilepsy and seizure disorders
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Neurodegenerative diseases
  • Glaucoma
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

It is important to note that each state with an approved medical marijuana program varies by qualifying conditions, accessibility, and products available for purchase. 

Adult-Use Cannabis: What Is It?

Non-medical cannabis is referred to as adult-use cannabis or recreational marijuana. States that have legalized adult-use do not require residents over the age of 21 to have a medical condition to purchase. However, it is crucial to understand that each state controls how the plant can be purchased and used. In states such as California, Colorado, and Oregon a person 21 or older can purchase, possess, and use marijuana as they like. It’s important to keep in mind that there are limits to what is allowed in recreational states. As of November 2020, four states voted to legalize cannabis bringing the total of adult-use states to 15.

The Main Differences Between Medical vs Adult-Use Cannabis

Possession and Purchasing Limits

Although both medical and recreational marijuana have allotted amounts of purchasing and possession medical marijuana patients can generally purchase and possess a higher amount of cannabis than those without a medical condition. While each state varies for medical possession and purchasing limits the allotted amount tends to be higher for medicinal purposes. Recreational, or adult-use, marijuana is limited in where it can be possessed, how it can be possessed, and the allotted amount to be purchased. 

Growing Limits

Depending on the state homegrown cannabis is allowed for either or both medical and adult-use cannabis. States that do not allow cannabis to be grown at home may make exemptions for medical patients. For example, medical patients in the state of Arizona may be approved to grow cannabis at home if they live 25 miles or more from a medical dispensary. Some adult-use states allow a small limit of plants to be grown at home out of the public eye. 

Age Restrictions

Adult-use legalized states can sell only to those 21 and older with a valid ID (license, state ID card, passport) at a licensed dispensary. Depending on the state medical cannabis can be available to those 18+, 21+, or those with a guardian to help administer and purchase the medicine. Most medical marijuana programs require a renewal of a medical card every year or every two years. One cannot purchase or possess medical cannabis without a valid medical card. 

States with Medical or Adult-Use Cannabis Programs


Zoning in on the Conclusion 

While there may not be a big difference in the medical vs adult-use cannabis products there are major differences in laws and regulations. Even between each state that may be both medical and adult-use it is vital to have knowledge of possession and purchasing limits before going to your local dispensary. 
If you are interested in entering the cannabis market for medical or recreational marijuana reach out to the experts at Zoned Properties. We’re here to help you find the right property for your next cannabis venture and provide you with sustainable solutions.