Recreational cannabis is rapidly spreading across the US, and most of the country could not be happier. Recent polls have said that a majority of the US now supports legalizing cannabis. Recreational pot has one opponent that you would least expect: the medical cannabis industry. The question remains: in a growing market, can recreational and medical cannabis coexist alongside one another?
A few medical cannabis advocacy groups have come out against legalizing recreational cannabis in their respective states. One such person is Lanette Davies, owner of the Canna Care dispensary in Sacramento, CA. In an interview with the LA Times back in October, Davies said that she planned to vote against Prop 64. Her concerns: that recreational cannabis could negatively affect the medical industry. Davies is not alone in her worries. Cannabis caregivers, owners of small grow operations, and others in the medical cannabis industry have shown wariness toward recreational use. They worry that medicinal and recreational cannabis will not be able to coexist. So, why exactly are they worried?
Larger Grow Operations Could Affect Smaller Ones in The Long Run
One of the concerns shared by many in the industry, is that larger growing operations could force smaller ones out of business. In order to meet the demand that comes with the recreational cannabis market, operations are going to have to grow (in more ways than one) in size and scale. This could make it difficult for mom and pop grow operations to compete with larger ones. Recreational cannabis markets are also more heavily regulated than medical ones. It may be difficult for smaller growers to comply with these newer, and more strict regulations. One would think though that with larger operations focusing on growing high THC cannabis, this would free up smaller operations to grow more CBD strains, of which demand has increased.
Lower Income Patients Could Be Affected The Most
One of the concerns that worries people like Davies, is that high taxation could make it more difficult for lower income patients to afford their medicines. Recreational cannabis is taxed at a fairly high rate. The revenue from these taxes has been used to improve services all over these states, including health services. Higher prices as a result of this taxation could negatively affect those who need medical cannabis the most. One way to address this issue would be to expand medicaid and medicare to cover medicinal cannabis. In order to do that, cannabis would have to be legalized on a federal level.
Speaking on a personal level, I know quite a few lower income medical cannabis patients, and living in a recreational state has seemed to make it easier for them to afford their medicines. Recent changes in the market are expected to cause prices to drop, which will certainly benefit lower income cannabis patients.
Recreational Weed Comes With A Stigma
As ridiculous as it seems, cannabis use still comes with a stigma. Many medical cannabis patients don’t want to be thought of as “just a bunch of potheads” and they worry that they will be lumped in with recreational users. Every cannabis connoisseur that I’ve ever met has always had a great deal of respect for cannabis as medicine. I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Can recreational and medical cannabis coexist? Myself and many others in the industry think that they can. The eight states that legalized recreational cannabis last year will have their markets up and running in the next year. Also, more states plan on putting cannabis on the ballot in the coming years, so I imagine that we will find out soon.