Recreational and Medical Marijuana in Massachusetts: Is One Better than the Other?

What’s the Difference Between Recreational and Medical Marijuana in Massachusetts?

Our state has legalized both recreational and medical cannabis on separate occasions. Massachusetts was the 18th state to legalize medical cannabis in 2012 and later legalized recreational marijuana in 2016. What’s the difference between recreational and medical marijuana in Massachusetts, though?

Considering the two laws were passed at different times, it’s no surprise that there are different rules for each category. Let’s take a look at how our state (and our Fitchburg dispensary) separates the two categories.

Is Massachusetts medical marijuana different from recreational weed?

One of the most common questions we hear is, “is there a difference between medical and recreational weed?” Is medical cannabis produced differently, more potent, or somehow different from recreational weed? 

The short answer is no. Generally speaking, both medical and recreational users in Massachusetts have access to the same products. However, medical marijuana users in the state have different privileges from recreational users. They may buy and possess more cannabis at a given time and cultivate more plants, among other benefits. 

It’s not all benefits, though. There are also some drawbacks to being a registered medical cannabis user in Massachusetts. It’s why the recreational industry is so important to many consumers, even those who benefit from the therapeutic effects of the plant. 

The items you see in a local dispensary are available to both medical and recreational users. Medical marijuana is not any different than recreational marijuana, but it does come with a different set of rules.

Qualifying conditions for medical marijuana in Massachusetts

What’s the Difference Between Recreational and Medical Marijuana in Massachusetts?

You must have a qualifying condition to obtain your medical marijuana card in Massachusetts. 

Here are the qualifying conditions: Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) 


Crohn’s disease 



Hepatitis C 

Multiple Sclerosis 

Parkinson’s disease

If your medical condition is not listed here, you do not qualify for a medical marijuana card. 

What are the benefits of the medical marijuana program?

As we mentioned before, there are some perks to being a medical marijuana patient in Massachusetts. We’ll list them off before we take a look at some of the drawbacks to enrolling in the program.

Medical Marijuana Tax benefits 

Adult-use recreational cannabis users in Massachusetts pay a hefty tax rate for their products. There is the 10.75% marijuana excise tax, the 6.25% sales tax, and the optional local excise tax of up to 3%. Altogether, consumers can pay anywhere from 17% to 20% additional tax on their marijuana products. 

Medical marijuana customers, on the other hand, pay no taxes. If you use a lot of cannabis for your medical condition, the Massachusetts medical marijuana program may save you a lot of money in the long run.

Fewer purchasing and possession limits

Recreational cannabis users in Massachusetts are limited to purchasing and possessing up to one ounce of cannabis at a time. Possessing more than that could lead to a misdemeanor

Medical marijuana users can possess or purchase no more than 10 ounces every two months. This is a significant increase in limits and allows medical users more access to therapeutic benefits from the plant. 

Lower age limit 

Patients under 21 with qualifying conditions can still access products. If they are 18 or over, they will just need approval from a doctor and certification from the state. If they are under 18, they must receive approval from two Massachusetts-licensed certifying patients. Additionally, patients under 18 must be diagnosed with a debilitating life-limiting condition or illness. 

The drawbacks to enrolling in the program 

What’s the Difference Between Recreational and Medical Marijuana in Massachusetts?

Our state’s medical marijuana program is beneficial to many people who rely on cannabis as medicine. That doesn’t mean everyone should sign up though, even if they have a qualifying condition. 

Why might someone opt out of getting medical marijuana card?

Firearm ownership 

The federal government does not care that medical and recreational marijuana is legal in Massachusetts and other states. On a federal level, marijuana use is still illegal.

When you buy a firearm, you must first fill out a form about your history and lifestyle. This includes questions about marijuana use. Since all cannabis use is illegal in the eyes of the federal government, you cannot purchase a gun if you answer “yes” to the marijuana use question.

You may think the simple solution is to not disclose your marijuana use. If you are a registered medical marijuana patient, the government knows. And you will not be allowed to purchase a firearm. 

Privacy concerns

There are many reasons a person may want to keep their marijuana use a private matter. If you don’t want your marijuana purchases to be tracked, you should stick to recreational marijuana. 

Recreational dispensaries, like our Fitchburg pot shop, do not keep purchaser’s information on file. Medical dispensaries, on the other hand, are required to keep track of patients’ purchases.

Obtaining a Massachusetts medical marijuana card 

If you have a qualifying medical condition and use marijuana, it’s a good idea to obtain your medical marijuana license so you can enjoy the benefits of the program. You can spend less money on products and purchase more than recreational users, which can really help out if you rely on the plant for relief. 

Here’s a quick rundown of how to get a medical marijuana card in Massachusetts:

Get your certification: The first step is to receive certification from a qualified healthcare provider. You will be given a certification once diagnosed with a debilitating condition. If you are already diagnosed, you will still need to schedule an appointment for your certification. 

Submit application: Massachusetts has a Medical Use of Marijuana Program which reviews patient applications. Before you can start purchasing medical marijuana in the state, you’ll need to apply and be approved by the program board. You can apply here

Register with the state: Once approved, you will receive an email from Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. You will then have to register through the state’s website here

While qualified patients have access to certain benefits, don’t forget that cannabis is still illegal on a federal level. As a medical patient, you are permitted to possess more cannabis than other users. However, you can’t cross state lines with your stash or bring it on federal land. 

Don’t have a qualifying condition? You can still use Massachusetts cannabis! 

Remember, there are no distinguishing features of medical cannabis in Massachusetts. The same products are available to both recreational and medical users. Medical Dispensaries all set aside at least 35% of their products to make sure they don’t run out of specific items for medical users. While our Fitchburg dispensary may not be medical, we make sure to carry a wide selection of Cannabis for all users with daily new arrivals.

While the qualifying conditions in the state are specific, we recognize that some people find benefit in using cannabis for other conditions. Fortunately, access to legal, recreational cannabis in Massachusetts is widely available. 

Stop by The Healing Center 

Need weed? We’ve got you covered. Stop by our Fitchburg dispensary for all of your cannabis needs. And if you have any questions, we’re always here to help and direct you to the best products on the market. 

We are a recreational dispensary located in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, serving all guests 21 or over with legal identification. We carry a wide selection of brands with a variety of categories like cannabis flowerconcentratespre-rolled jointsvaporizer cartridgesediblesinfused drinkstinctures, and accessories. Give us a follow on InstagramFacebook or Twitter.

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