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In 2001, the use of medical cannabis became federally legal in Canada, allowing individuals prescribed by doctors to safely consume cannabis for specific medicinal purposes. As of October 17, 2018, non-medical (aka recreational) cannabis became federally legal in Canada and thus began the age-old question we budtenders hear all too often- what’s the difference? At the end of the day, there are no differences in the cannabis that is being consumed- it’s all the same plant. However, there are several key differences in how one accesses/obtains cannabis, what the intent is, their method of consumption, stipulations around consumption and possession, and more that we’ll dive into. Ultimately- the difference is within the legislation, rather than the cannabis itself.
One initial factor that distinguishes medical cannabis from recreational cannabis is the intent for which cannabis is being used. Recreational cannabis users are often searching for cannabis for personal enjoyment. This means that it could be used for socializing and a general improvement of one’s quality of life, rather than with therapeutic intent for targeted health purposes as with medical cannabis. Because of this, medical cannabis consumers are referred to as “patients” and must be prescribed cannabis by a medical professional who is licensed to prescribe cannabis as a form of treatment for an array of diagnoses. These patients are then registered with a licensed producer and will receive their cannabis order through the mail. These orders are tax-deductible and becoming increasingly coverable through insurance.
Compassionate pricing is also offered to medical users in instances of financial need, disability, age, etc. Recreational cannabis consumers are simply that- consumers. They are regular retail customers who either order online through their provincially approved online cannabis retail stores or simply walk into a recreational weed dispensary, such as the ones found in Calgary, including us! To purchase, all they need is a valid form of government-issued photo ID, to be of age in their province (18 in Alberta), and pay!
Two huge legislative factors include age requirements and possession limitations. To consume recreational cannabis under the Cannabis Act the legal age is 19 in Canada. However, some provinces have set their age limit. In Alberta, this means you have to be 18 years old to enter a recreational weed dispensary and purchase cannabis. So, if you’re 18 and older and in the Calgary area come visit us! There is a zero-tolerance policy in place concerning the sale to, consumption/possession of cannabis regarding minors, and recreational budtenders take their jobs very seriously to comply with this policy/act. Medical cannabis, however, does not have an age minimum since it requires a medically recommended prescription as a means of ongoing treatment by a professional. Possession limits also differ between recreational customers and medical patients. Recreational customers who purchase their weed from a dispensary are only allowed to purchase and transport 30 grams of dried cannabis or equivalent to, and there is also a restriction on plant growing. Medical patients have a much higher possession limit and have a higher plant limit as well. Medical cannabis may also be consumed anywhere that tobacco can be, while recreational has more restrictions.
Despite having these differences, the legalization of Cannabis under the Cannabis Act has been a wonderful thing. It has provided so many people with many opportunities. The unseen side of recreational cannabis is that it has provided many people with jobs whether it be with a licensed producer, government regulators, dispensary owners, and their employees. It has a wonderful industry that has become a community and will only continue to flourish like the plant that has brought us all together.
I mean our address book is pretty full… but I guess we could fit you in.