Medical vs. Recreational Dispensaries in MA: What’s the Difference?

Medical vs. Recreational Dispensaries in MA: What’s the Difference?

Back in November of 2016, Massachusetts voters approved a history ballot initiative to end cannabis prohibition for adults 21 and older in the great Bay State. 

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, “by the end of October 2020, more than 80 stores were open, and the state had logged more than $1 billion in sales.” Needless to say, cannabis consumers in Massachusetts have options. 

However, as cannabis becomes more and more mainstream in states with more established industries, customers are walking into dispensaries less and less prepared. While it is wonderful to see new faces walk into our stores ready to explore cannabis for the first time, a little research goes a long way. It is important to know the differences between a Massachusetts medical dispensary and a recreational (adult-use) dispensary. 

Understanding this will help prepare you for your first visit and make sure you get the most out of every trip you make afterwards. So, let’s dive in.

What is a medical dispensary?

Medical dispensaries – as the name suggests – are for medical patients using cannabis to treat debilitating condition related symptoms. In fact, they often resemble a doctor’s office more than a typical retail storefront. 

This also means that walking into a medical dispensary typically requires a lot more forethought. For instance, making a visit to a medical marijuana dispensary requires you to book an appointment, arrive with proper medical documentation, and answer questions related to cannabis and/or your medical concerns to get the right products for you. 

On the other hand, because medical establishments are regulated and taxed differently than their recreational counterparts, you’ll find that the price ranges vary between the two. In fact, the tax for medical cannabis patients is either far lower or zero, compared to the tax rate for recreational consumers. In some states, the difference is as high as 10% to 30%.

If you qualify for a Massachusetts medical cannabis card, you are eligible for a number of benefits, such as:

  • Savings on Cost. There is no sales tax for Massachusetts medical cardholders. A $100 purchase of cannabis will be just that. Adult-use customers will have to pay the sales tax rate of 6.25% plus the 10.75% state excise tax and, in most cases, a 3% local city tax.
  • Prioritized Medicine. Massachusetts requires dispensaries to hold a certain amount of inventory for patients, meaning you’ll almost never hear the words “We’re out of stock.” Additionally, your wait time is likely to be a lot shorter than if you were to go to a recreational dispensary. 
  • Larger Product Selection. Medical marijuana dispensaries hold products with higher concentrations of THC as well as CBD-dominant products, giving you access to a larger selection. 
  • Higher Possession Limit. According to Massachusetts state law, a registered patient can purchase up to 10 ounces every two months. The limit on recreational cannabis, however, is one ounce or less of flower. 
  • Exclusive Discounts. Medical cannabis patients are eligible for rewards and loyalty programs that offer bonuses for cardholders, such as discounts on your purchase, whereas adult-use consumers cannot receive discounts directly on cannabis products, but rather on accessories or merchandise.

What is a recreational dispensary?

Also known as adult-use shops, recreational dispensaries do not require as much documentation or prerequisites as medical dispensaries. You simply have to be at least 21 years old, present a valid government-issued ID, and have cash on you.

What type of dispensary is best for you?

If you want to use cannabis to treat the symptoms of a medical condition, there are clearly more benefits to being a medical cardholder. However, if you want to use cannabis for any non-medical purpose, you are not alone. In fact, cannabis consumer research suggests that close to 50 million people in the United States are recreational consumers, and it remains legal and more accessible than ever to purchase cannabis for adult-use. 

At the end of the day, your dispensary of choice should leave you feeling empowered to use and discover cannabis products. It is the team of budtenders and the environment that sets one dispensary apart from another. 

Look for staff that are excited to help you find the right products for your desired effect and are willing to give you their undivided attention to share recommendations or educational information about the menu. 

Prefer to explore cannabis without commitments?

Consider also the unique perks of the dispensary, from their community-based initiatives to their rewards program. 

And if you are at all in doubt, find a recreational dispensary near you to explore without the commitment or making an appointment. You can find a Fine Fettle dispensary near you in Rowley, MA or Martha’s Vineyard