If Recreational Cannabis is Legal, Why have a Medical Cannabis Program?
This is a question that I have faced many times from people who still don’t fully understand the medical applications of cannabis. IF Recreational weed is available, why put up with a medical marijuana program at all?
Isn’t all cannabis the same? Isn’t marijuana…well…just marijuana?
While in essence, medical cannabis and recreational cannabis is still…cannabis, there is a vast difference between the approach on providing it to the general public. The intent behind the consumer is very different in these two markets and while there are many overlapping qualities, there still needs to be a definitive distinction between recreational and medical.
In the following article, I’m going to focus on why the need for a medical marijuana program is still essential even post-recreational legalization.
Catering to different markets
There’s a massive difference between a dude wanting to spark up and someone using medical cannabis to manage a medical condition. For starters, the recreational market (while consistency is something that is important), it’s not a big deal if you get strains that ‘hit you differently’.
This is the current landscape within the cannabis industry – inconsistent highs or dosage. In other words, there still is no “Bud Light” of weed that will provide a consistent dosage and effect after every use. This isn’t to say that the cannabis industry isn’t working to achieve this, but for now that still isn’t the case.
Within a medical setting, consistency is vital. If you’re going to be using marijuana as medicine, you need to ensure that you’re getting the same amount of cannabinoids, the consistent effect and have a constant supply of the same product.
Within a “flower market” [where people still buy marijuana buds], this is nearly impossible. This is why the medical marijuana sector will probably evolve into cannabis-based medicines as opposed to continuing with the flower approach. Once the industry solves the riddle of consistency, I’m almost confident that the medical sector will look a lot more like Pharma than it does the recreational sector.
Keeping Prices Accessible
It’s also not fair to charge people the same amount of money for a product when the intent differs. For instance, for a medical patient, being able to get affordable medicine is infinitely more important than for a recreational user.
Where the recreational user might find value in saving a few dollars here, a medical patient has the necessity to consume marijuana, and thus, charging them the same price as a recreational user creates a problem.
Firstly, a medical user normally consumes more cannabis than a recreational user. This means that their investment increases. Most medical marijuana programs provide cheaper cannabis than the recreational market and also has less taxes on it.
For a medical marijuana patient, having cost effective medicine is crucial and by keeping a medical marijuana program, you can focus on providing cost effective solutions to people who truly need it.
Research and Development
A recreational user seeks more potent buds, a consistent high and diversity in products. A medical user requires effective medicine that is cost effective and helps with their specific condition.
Thus, the R&D departments of each sector focuses on different aspects. To have a clear distinction between medical and recreational would allow companies to pull their resources to solve the problems of their niche as opposed to attempting to blanket research cannabis.
A recreational cannabis company would probably focus on purity, strength and consistency, whereas a medical cannabis company would focus on condition specific cannabinoids, consistency and effectiveness.
Thus, by allowing both sectors to coexist, you allow companies to focus on their niches as opposed to blanketing everything within the industry under one demographic.
Marijuana is a multi-faceted plant that is being used by several different demographics. While arguably, the recreational sector will take the bulk sum of R&D, there will be companies that focus solely on the medical approach.
This is why the distinction between the two markets need to exist even post recreational legalization.
Finally, one of the most important reasons why there needs to be a medical cannabis program even if marijuana is legalized within a recreational scope is the collection of data.
Research has been stifled by the government for decades. With a recreational market quickly growing, we can see that a lot of data points will be collected on consumer trends, preferences and so forth.
Similarly, within a medical setting, the need to collect “sector specific” data will allow the development of better cannabis medicines to occur.
While it might seem that having both a medical and recreational program running in your state is a waste of resources, it’s important to understand that the two user profiles for each sector is very different.
To put it into perspective simply think about going to the gym. It’s very different going to the gym for the sake of ‘getting in shape’ as opposed to ‘rehabilitation from an accident’. You’re still using the gym, your approach is simply completely different. And so is cannabis for recreational and medical users.