Medical vs recreational cannabis

Medical and recreational cannabis markets are both gaining more traction. You don’t need to look far to see clothes brands that are entering the market, Netflix promoting shows about cannabis edibles, or even regulators changing their approach to the use of cannabis.

The global legal marijuana market size is expected to reach $66.3 billion by the end of 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc. But even in states and countries where the drug is legalised, there are major differences when it comes to medical vs recreational cannabis.

Medical vs recreational cannabis: the different use cases

The use of cannabis is the main difference between the two. Medical cannabis is used to aid symptoms of long-term conditions and symptoms associated with them. This includes nausea from chemotherapy and nerve pain from fibroglycemia. In these situations, medical cannabis is often used as an alternative for patients who aren’t responding to standard treatments. 

Recreational cannabis is used for enjoyment, rather than health reasons. Recreational cannabis is often smoked or used as part of a recipe to create edibles. Smoking or eating cannabis can often be a social activity but it’s important to note that, in some countries, this is actually an illegal activity. 

Medical vs recreational cannabis: What does the law say? 

What the law stipulates about both the medical and recreational use of cannabis will change from country to country. In some countries such as Barbados, Hong Kong and Indonesia, cannabis is illegal in both instances. 

In the US, however, there’s a different story across the continent. The recreational use of cannabis has been legalised in 11 states. These state laws are in conflict with federal law across the United States, where the use and possession of cannabis is illegal. Meanwhile, medical cannabis has been legalised in 33 states, with California leading the way back in 1996. 

In the UK, regulation towards medical cannabis is slowly changing due to high profile cases including severely epileptic children being denied access to CBD oil. While medical cannabis can be accessed in severe cases through a medical professional, cannabis itself is still an illegal Class B drug. 

In comparison, both the medical and recreational use of cannabis has been legalised in countries including Canada and Uruguay. 

Medical vs recreational cannabis: Who is the supplier?

Where the use of cannabis has been legalised for health purposes, a medical professional is almost always involved. Medical cannabis is available through medical recommendations and prescriptions. It most commonly comes in the form of Cannabidiol (CBD) or Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In the US, patients require a medical cannabis ID card that has been sanctioned by the relevant state. This is used at a medical dispensary.

When it comes to purchasing cannabis for recreational use, a very different story can be told. Instead of accessing cannabis through a medical professional, it can be bought through a cannabis dispensary, on the dark web, or simply grown at home. It all depends where you are and what the law states. Even though the recreational use of cannabis is illegal in some countries, some users may even turn to gangs for supply. 


When it comes to medical vs recreational cannabis, there are many differences to be aware of.  Always keep your health, your local law, and your intention in mind. If you require cannabis for medical reasons, always consult a medical professional first.