As most of us in Massachusetts know by now, recreational use of marijuana became legal in Massachusetts in December 2016. How does this impact medical marijuana? As it turns out, there probably will not be much impact. The law on recreational marijuana specifically states that the Medical Marijuana law is not affected. But there are still benefits to getting a medical marijuana card, if you qualify.
To get medical marijuana in Massachusetts, which was legalized in 2012, one must become certified as having a qualifying condition, which is done by a physician who has been registered with the state. Usually there is a flat fee for the visit, and there is no guarantee of certification. Once you have the certification, you can apply for registration with the state and receive a medical marijuana card. Once you have the card, you can make an appointment at a medical marijuana dispensary, and buy medical marijuana. Depending on the dispensary you go to, you may have access to a number of different strains of marijuana, which have varying actions depending on the relative amounts of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). You may be able to get different marijuana products, including dried, resin, tinctures, oils, butters, edible products like cookies and candies, or topicals. None of this is covered by insurance.
Differences between Recreational Marijuana and Medical Marijuana
RM: Recreational marijuana will not be available for purchase until July 2018 at the earliest, and there is some pressure within the government to push this date back even farther. At this point, it is legal to possess marijuana, as long as you are over 21 years old, but for now it is still illegal to buy or sell it. Once recreational marijuana is available for purchase, the only requirement will be identification that you are over 21. Recreational marijuana establishments will likely provide a wide variety of marijuana strains, products and equipment.
MM: There are 8 medical marijuana dispensaries now open in Massachusetts, with hundreds more in the process of becoming licensed. Visiting a dispensary requires a medical marijuana card. What is available at the dispensary depends on the dispensary.
RM: Recreational marijuana is … well, recreational, and will tend to be higher in THC, which is the chemical in marijuana that makes you high. The law requires labelling of recreational marijuana to include the amount of THC.
MM: Medical marijuana dispensaries usually carry strains lower in THC and higher in CBD, which tend to be more useful for medical purposes.
RM: Individuals can grow recreational marijuana, up to 6 plants per person in a household, or 12 plants per household, and there are rules about where and how the marijuana plants can be grown. Possession is limited to 1 ounce of recreational marijuana or 5 grams of concentrate or resin per person, or 10 ounces per residence. Anything over 1 ounce must be kept locked up.
MM: Individuals OR caregivers can grow up to 5 ounce medical marijuana supply per month.
RM: Penalties, both fines and imprisonment, are fairly stiff for selling recreational marijuana without a license, or buying recreational marijuana from an unlicensed seller. It is legal to give away up to 1 ounce of recreational marijuana to someone, if there is no exchange of money, and the gift is not advertised or publicly promoted.
MM: Giving or selling your medical marijuana to anyone, if you are a medical marijuana patient, is illegal and carries a penalty of up to 5 years. It is illegal for an unlicensed seller to sell to a medical marijuana patient, but the registered/qualified patient-purchaser will not be prosecuted.
RM: Recreational marijuana will have a sales tax, excise tax, and local town or city taxes.
MM: Medical marijuana is not taxed.
Even with the legalization of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, there are still good reasons to go through the process of getting a medical marijuana card, if you are eligible, and get marijuana from a dispensary. It can protect you legally, and ensure that you will be able to get the type of marijuana that is most helpful.
For more information:
— Integr8mass.com (has a free downloadable patient handbook)
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