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The Difference Between Medical and Recreational Dispensaries

I ask for two things when a new or returning patient enters the medical dispensary: a red card and a valid photo ID. When the person informs us they don’t know what a red card is, it is the first sign that they are looking for our recreational shop.

The Daily Chronic

The Daily Chronic

Now that marijuana is a recreational substance, both Colorado residents and tourists are getting even more curious! Although dispensaries are open to the public, there are two types of stores for two types of consumers. We often hear, “well, what’s the difference between the two shops?” Let’s look into the most significant differences based on common questions I hear about the two types of dispensaries.

  1. How old do I have to be?: Medical shops provide care to patients 18 and over. Recreational shops are similar to liquor stores or bars where you must be 21 or over to purchase and even to look around. To prove that you’re of age, you will need a valid photo ID. Are you traveling internationally? Bring in your passport. Your Denmark driver’s license won’t cut it.
  2. What’s a red card?: If you want to shop medically, you need to live in Colorado and possess a state issued red card. You must to see a doctor and get a recommendation which you then send to the state. Just visiting for the week? Go recreational. If you’ve relocated to Boulder, check in with a local medical marijuana dispensary and see which physician they recommend.
  3. How much can I buy?: Each day, a medical patient can purchase two ounces of cannabis (or the equivalent in edibles, hash, tinctures) in a medical shop. In a recreational store, Colorado residents can purchase up to one ounce or the equivalent. All non-Colorado customers can purchase up to a quarter ounce (7 grams) of cannabis or its equivalent. A red card does not provide shopping privileges in a recreational store. All Colorado residents are capped at one ounce when shopping in a recreational store.
  4. Is the product any different?: I work for a company that grows the same flower for both their medical and recreational shops. This is not true for all facilities. Some dispensaries are solely medical, some solely recreational. You can always ask your budtender about how the plants are grown. Look for organic! A major difference between medical and recreational products in dispensaries is in their edible selection. The limit to a recreational edible product is 100mg of THC. In medical shops, you will find products with much higher doses of THC.
  5. Why is it so much more expensive?: Products generally sell at a high price point in recreational shops and the tax in a recreational shop is 21.92% compared to 8.37% in medical shops.

Much like a pub, if you’re under 21, they won’t let you in. Another thing that makes shopping for cannabis like visiting a pub is that if you’re obviously intoxicated, you won’t be served. So, when going into a dispensary remember the following things: a valid photo ID, patience, an open mind, and most of all, a smile.

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