Medical cannabis users in Utah know full well that they are the only ones legally allowed to purchase, possess, and use cannabis within state borders. They also know that their authority is derived from a state-issued medical cannabis card they obtained only after consulting with a medical professional. The same is not true in neighboring states with recreational marijuana programs.
States like Arizona and Colorado allow both medical and recreational consumption. They are joined by New York, California, Oregon, and more than a dozen other states. But here is the thing: legalizing both recreational and medical cannabis creates a dilemma for patients on the medical side. It is a dilemma rooted in the hassles associated with obtaining and renewing a medical cannabis card.
How Medical Cannabis Cards Work
The medical cannabis card is official verification of a patient’s eligibility to use cannabis as a medicine. It takes the place of a written prescription. Cards are necessary because doctors cannot legally prescribe marijuana.
In Utah, where recreational marijuana is still illegal, medical cards serve a valuable purpose. Any patient choosing to visit the Beehive Farmacy in either Salt Lake City or Brigham City would need to have a valid card just to get into the place. Beehive could not sell to anyone without a valid card.
Utah lawmakers have determined that the medical cannabis card is the best way to guarantee that cannabis pharmacies are not selling indiscriminately to anyone who walks in off the street. To do so would be to encourage recreational use. That is something Utah has no intention of doing.
When Recreational Use Is Okay
The dilemma for medical cannabis patients comes into play when their respective states allow both medical cannabis and recreational consumption. Imagine you live in a more liberal state like Arizona or New York. Imagine you have a qualifying condition that makes you eligible for a medical cannabis card. Would you still go through the trouble of getting one?
Getting a medical cannabis card requires filling out an online application and paying a fee. It requires seeing a medical professional who can evaluate your condition and make an official recommendation. The icing on the cake is that medical cannabis cards are not issued on a permanent basis. They need to be renewed, which means another trip back to the doctor.
Is all that worth it when you can go down to the local recreational dispensary and buy marijuana without a card? It might be worth it if you are new to the whole cannabis thing. You might want to stick with medical cannabis due to fears that you know so little about it. But the chances of you feeling the same way a few years down the road are pretty slim.
Self-Medication Is Self-Medication
One of the inconvenient truths about medical cannabis is that patients are forced to self-medicate. They do not get hard and fast prescriptions from their doctors. They only get recommendations. Patients must ultimately decide which medicines to use, how frequently to use them, and the dosage and delivery method they prefer.
That being the case, what is the difference between going the medical route and buying recreational marijuana instead? States claim that medical cannabis is purer and more potent. That may or may not be true, but patients can still self-medicate with recreational marijuana.
Running both medical and recreational marijuana program side-by-side creates a real dilemma for medical cannabis patients. Human nature suggests that most patients will eventually go the recreational route in order to save money and eliminate the hassle of getting a card.