When medical cannabis makes sense in California


I wrote an article last year titled “Do Medical Licenses Make Sense in Recreational Jurisdictions?” The idea – which we have seen confirmed countless times – is that in jurisdictions that allow recreational cannabis, medical cannabis generally becomes a relic of the past. Indeed, medical cannabis is subject to many more restrictions than recreational cannabis, which makes the purchase of recreational cannabis much easier for the majority of consumers.

Today I want to look at some of the few situations where medical cannabis still makes sense, primarily from a consumer perspective. I covered some of them in my article above and expand on them below:

Some cities don’t allow recreational cannabis

Some places still only allow medical cannabis. Some municipalities in California still haven’t welcomed recreational cannabis sales. So companies operating in these jurisdictions can obviously only sell medical cannabis. Consumers – at least those wishing to purchase cannabis from legal stores in their hometown – will be required to have a doctor’s recommendation or Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC).

Age limits

There are Nope age limits for medical cannabis. People under 21 cannot buy recreational cannabis anywhere in the state. They or their primary caregivers can only purchase cannabis if they have a referral or MMIC. It’s probably not a huge part of the state market, but for these folks, medical cannabis is the only way to go.

In addition, a person over the age of 21 who buys cannabis for recreational purposes and gives it to a minor may incur criminal liability. A person under 21 with a medical marijuana or MMIC recommendation who is the primary caregiver (say a parent) provides it to them may not have these same types of risks.

Medical customers can buy more cannabis

Recreational cannabis is subject to very strict daily purchase limits which are much higher for medical marijuana. Here are the daily purchase limits for hobbies:

  • 28.5 grams of unconcentrated cannabis.
  • 8 grams of cannabis concentrate as defined in Section 26001 of the Business and Professions Code, including cannabis concentrate contained in cannabis products.
  • 6 immature cannabis plants.

And here are the daily limits for medical clients:

  • 8 ounces of medicinal cannabis in the form of dried mature flowers or the conversion of the plant in accordance with section 11362.77 of the Health and Safety Code.
  • 12 immature cannabis plants.

As you can see, a patient who uses medical marijuana or their primary caregiver can acquire several times more cannabis per day than a recreational user. This makes a lot of sense – why force a medical client to visit a clinic multiple times a week or month when they may be suffering from a debilitating illness?

Medical cannabis products can be much more potent

Both edible and topical cannabis products are subject to strict THC limits. THC limits for edibles are 10mg THC per serving and 100mg THC per package. However, orally disintegrating edibles can contain up to 5 times this amount per package if they are intended for medical use only (and properly labelled/sold as such) and only contain 10mg of THC per piece. Similarly, topical cannabis products can only contain 1000mg of THC per package, but this can be doubled for products labeled/sold for medical purposes.

MMIC holders pay less tax

Under California law, MMIC holders may be exempt from paying sales tax (but not state excise tax) on medical cannabis products. This exemption only applies to MMIC holders and not just to medical patients who have a doctor’s referral. But for medical patients who buy large quantities of medical marijuana, the savings can add up.

Cannabis free???

Medical licensees can donate or donate medical patients under certain circumstances. Again, this is just another reason why physician recommendations and MMICs can be a tremendous asset in the hands of resource-constrained patients.

California is dominated by recreational cannabis sales. Medical only companies are going to have a very difficult to compete with recreational vendors in neighboring jurisdictions, let alone illegal stores. The average customer simply won’t have to worry about getting a doctor’s referral or MMIC, especially if they don’t have a qualifying condition. And these recreational dispensaries often deliver to medical-only towns. So recreational businesses will win time and time again. But for medical patients, there can be many good reasons to get a doctor’s referral or the MMIC.


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