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As of 2021, medical marijuana is legal in 36 states and the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, 19 states, including Colorado and New York, have legalized recreational marijuana.
Now that marijuana is legal for recreational purposes in so many places, should you still apply for a medical marijuana card?
The short answer is yes. Medical marijuana cards offer many benefits, from personal freedom to tax perks. Here are some reasons why you should consider speaking with a qualified medical professional about obtaining a medical cannabis card.
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Access to Medical Marijuana to Treat Chronic Diseases
If you suffer from a chronic condition such as Crohn’s disease or fibromyalgia, medical cannabis can be a supplemental treatment option. If you are coping with depression or anxiety, your physician may even show you how to use medical marijuana instead of harmful prescription medications. The following are qualifying conditions to obtain a medical marijuana card, which may vary depending on your state of residence.
- Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) / Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, informally known as Lou Gehrig’s disease)
- Crohn’s disease
- Epilepsy, or any other condition that causes seizures
- Hepatitis C
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS), or any other condition that causes persistent muscle spasms
- Parkinson’s disease
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Severe nausea
- Severe or chronic pain
- Sickle cell anemia
The above list is not exhaustive, and some states may allow medical marijuana cardholders to use cannabis for other conditions. And as research emerges on the potential health benefits of cannabis, this list is likely to grow.
Furthermore, if you have a medical marijuana card, you can reap the therapeutic benefits in other ways. Many cannabis cardholders consume the plant to unwind after a stressful day, or to help naturally fight insomnia. Enjoying these benefits is only possible with a medical marijuana card in states like Hawaii and Minnesota, where recreational weed has been decriminalized but not yet legalized.
Cannabis Cards Give You Freedom
There’s no question that United States cannabis laws can be confusing. Registering for a medical marijuana card may protect you from certain legal dilemmas. While recreational marijuana users are limited to how much weed they can possess, medical cardholders may carry as much as their prescriptions permit.
In Florida, where recreational marijuana remains illegal, possessing just one gram of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Medical marijuana cardholders do not have to worry about "getting caught" with the plant, as they have full legal approval to possess.
Indeed, medical cannabis cardholders benefit from being on the right side of the law. But you should still exercise caution when traveling across state lines, as not all jurisdictions will honor your medical marijuana card. Still, as the recreational market is stuck in a legal quagmire, it may be safer to have a MMJ recommendation and card to avoid being hassled by the law.
Save Money with a Medical Marijuana Card
There is not much discrepancy in the retail cost of recreational vs. medical marijuana. However, medical cannabis cardholders can save significant money on taxes. In Arizona, for example, recreational users pay a whopping 21.6% tax rate, while medical marijuana cardholders may pay as little as 8% in taxes. In Illinois, the tax benefits are more striking. While recreational users are saddled with up to 31% in taxes, medical cardholders enjoy an ultra-low 1% tax rate. In the Evergreen State, the tax differences are even steeper: Washingtonians with MMJ cards pay nothing, yes 0%, in taxes, while recreational users are slapped with a 37% tax rate. For a state-by-state breakdown of cannabis tax rates, refer to our comprehensive guide.
If you’re on a limited budget, the tax perks of holding a medical cannabis card may represent the biggest benefit. The tax savings don’t compromise the quality of your marijuana, either. In fact, you’ll be paying less in taxes to access better quality cannabis.
Better Quality Medical Marijuana
Ensuring that your weed is as pathogen-free (i.e., no mold, bacteria, etc.) as possible is of utmost importance for medical marijuana users. As recreational marijuana is not as carefully monitored as medical, the quality may be lower. In addition, medical marijuana cardholders benefit from more precise dosing, a particularly crucial factor when consuming potent cannabis edibles.
It is important to note, however, that most marijuana is not FDA-approved, whether designated as recreational or medical. In 2018, Epidiolex, which is used to treat severe epileptic seizures, became the first cannabis-derived medicine to gain FDA approval. As cannabis medicine moves towards the mainstream, additional FDA approvals may be on the horizon..
Benefits of a Medical Marijuana Card
Clearly, there are many benefits to obtaining a medical marijuana card. A medical marijuana card can grant you access to better quality cannabis, save you money on taxes and potentially eliminate legal headaches, while serving your medical needs.