medical cannabis vs recreational cannabis in WA banner

medical cannabis

Know The Difference! Medical vs Recreational Cannabis In Washington

Medical cannabis vs recreational cannabis in Washington state? Are you aware of the differences? Cannabis use in Washington State is legal for both medical and recreational purposes. However, there are significant differences between the two. These differences affect who can purchase cannabis, how much they can buy, and the legal protections they have. Understanding these distinctions is important for anyone considering cannabis use in Washington.

White Rabbit Cannabis is one of the few fully endorsed medical cannabis dispensaries in Western Washington, and it serves Snohomish and King counties. This means that at all times, there are staff members present to address questions concerning medical marijuana products and their use.

Medical Cannabis vs Recreational Cannabis Questions Answered

Consumers need to know the differences between medical cannabis vs recreational cannabis.

Legal Framework And History

Medical cannabis has been legal in Washington since 1998. Recreational cannabis followed in 2012 with the passage of Initiative 502. The two systems operate under different regulations. Medical cannabis falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health (DOH). Recreational cannabis is regulated by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB).

Eligibility and Access

To access medical cannabis, patients must qualify under specific medical conditions. Conditions include cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and chronic pain. A healthcare practitioner must provide authorization. This authorization is documented in a medical marijuana authorization form.

With a medical marijuana authorization form, a patient may obtain a medical marijuana ID card at an endorsed location such as White Rabbit Cannabis. This ID card can be presented at any store that carries qualified medical marijuana products.

Medical patients authorized to use marijuana for treatment may enter a weed store if they are 18 and over. Whereas, all recreational only users must be 21 and over. Users under the age of 18 must possess a designated personal provider authorized to make purchases on their behalf. Per the Washington State government site:

  • A designated provider is: 1) a person who is 21 years of age or older and is the parent or guardian of a qualifying patient who is under the age of 18; or, 2) a person who has been designated by the patient to purchase, provide or grow cannabis on the patient’s behalf.
  • Each patient and designated provider must have their own medical cannabis authorization form provided by the patient’s health care practitioner. A designated provider can only serve one patient at any one time

Recreational cannabis, however, is available to anyone aged 21 or older. There are no medical requirements or documentation needed. A valid ID proving age is sufficient for purchase for recreational users.

Purchase Limits

Medical cannabis patients can purchase up to three ounces of usable marijuana. They can also buy forty-eight ounces of marijuana-infused products in solid form. Additionally, they are allowed twenty-one grams of marijuana concentrate. Medical users may also grow up

Recreational users are limited to one ounce of usable marijuana. They can also purchase sixteen ounces of marijuana-infused products in solid form. The limit for marijuana concentrates is seven grams.

Recreational User Limits:

  • Up to one ounce of useable marijuana (the harvested flowers, aka “bud”)
  • 16 ounces of marijuana-infused edibles in solid form
  • 72 ounces in liquid form
  • 7 grams of marijuana concentrates

Medical User Limits:

Medical users may purchase up to three times the limits set for recreational users.

Patients who register in the state database will receive the following benefits (PDF):

  • May buy cannabis product and possess up to three times the current limit from any medically-endorsed retail store.
  • Medical patients are exempt from paying sales tax when buying products from a medically-endorsed retail store.
  • May buy high-THC compliant products from a medically-endorsed retail store, where available, such as White Rabbit Cannabis in Lynnwood WA.
  • May grow six to fifteen plants and possess eight ounces of usable cannabis produced from their plants. The number of plants allowed to grow is indicated on the patient’s authorization form and their recognition card.

 Possession Limits

Medical cannabis patients can possess up to three ounces of usable marijuana. They can also have up to eight ounces in their home. Recreational users can possess one ounce of usable marijuana. Both can possess sixteen ounces of marijuana-infused products in solid form. However, medical patients can possess more at home if authorized.

Home Cultivation

Medical cannabis patients are allowed to grow their own plants. They can grow up to six plants for personal use. If the healthcare provider recommends it, they can grow up to fifteen plants. The total amount of usable marijuana should not exceed eight ounces.

Recreational users are not allowed to grow their own cannabis. All cannabis must be purchased from licensed retailers. This is a significant distinction between medical and recreational use.

best cannabis dispensary near me

Medical Marijuana Endorsement

A medical marijuana endorsement is required for dispensaries to sell medical cannabis. To get this endorsement, dispensaries must meet specific criteria. First, they must have a licensed healthcare consultant on staff. This consultant must be available during business hours.

The consultant’s role is to provide advice to medical cannabis patients. They help with product selection and proper use. They also ensure patients understand the effects and risks of cannabis use. The endorsement process involves an application and a fee. Dispensaries must also comply with ongoing regulations and inspections.


Medical cannabis patients with a recognition card are exempt from sales tax. However, they still pay the excise tax. This tax is currently 37% on all cannabis products. Recreational users must pay both sales tax and the excise tax. This makes medical cannabis more affordable for patients with high needs.

Legal Protections

Medical cannabis patients have certain legal protections. They can possess and use cannabis without facing legal penalties. They are also protected in the workplace and housing situations. Recreational users do not have these specific protections. They must adhere strictly to the state’s laws and regulations.

Product Potency

Medical cannabis products often have higher potency than recreational products. This is to meet the needs of patients with severe conditions. Recreational products are limited in potency by state regulations. This ensures they are safe for general use.

Testing and Quality Control in Medical Cannabis vs Recreational Cannabis

Both medical and recreational cannabis products must undergo rigorous testing. This ensures they are free of contaminants and meet quality standards. Medical cannabis, however, is often subject to stricter testing protocols. Medical cannabis is tested for heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium, and mercury. These metals can be present in cannabis products due to contaminated soil or water. The plant can absorb these metals as it grows. Pesticide use is another important issue. Some growers use synthetic pesticides, which can leave harmful residues. Organic growing methods avoid these chemicals but can be more costly and labor-intensive. Stricter testing for medical cannabis ensures that patients with compromised health are not exposed to these harmful substances.


The key differences between medical and recreational cannabis in Washington State are significant. They affect who can buy cannabis, how much they can buy, and the legal protections they have. Understanding these differences is crucial for anyone considering cannabis use in Washington. Whether for medical or recreational purposes, it is important to stay informed and comply with state laws.

Links To Related Articles

Copyright © 2024 White Rabbit

Site by CannaPlanners