Medical vs. Recreational Cannabis in Canada
Under The Cannabis Act, both medical and recreational cannabis is now legal in Canada and millions of Canadians are taking advantage of this new freedom within the country. This new emergence of legal cannabis has some Canadians wondering what the difference is between medical and recreational cannabis, making it a popular topic of conversation within and external to the cannabis community.
It’s worth noting when examining the differences between medical and recreational cannabis, it is important to acknowledge that consumption, dosing strategy, and the intended effects of use, comes down to the intent and choices of the cannabis consumer/patient.
Medicinally, cannabis offers so many positive benefits including pain relief, reducing inflammation, helping insomnia, among other benefits, and is being highly researched and regarded for its anti-seizure and anti-cancer properties. Those who choose to consume cannabis medicinally on a regular basis will experience a continuous benefit of cannabis as it works with their body’s endocannabinoid system. Some medical patients may only need to take it as needed for relief at certain times of the month or year, when they are flared up, stressed, or extra anxious. Patients are in control of when they need to take their medication.
Those who choose to use recreationally are generally pursuing the psychoactive, or intoxicating effect of cannabis, from the THC. If one chooses to use cannabis recreationally, they may also experience some medical benefits concurrently.
The cannabis community has also emerged to talk about cannabis for its therapeutic uses, including reducing anxiety and stress, and in many cases of depression. In these contexts, the user may not see their consumption as either medicinal or recreational, but rather intently consuming to get a particular therapeutic effect.
It is strongly believed that if an individual is self-medicating with recreational cannabis, for a medical or therapeutic intent, it is best to seek guidance from a qualified healthcare practitioner and a prescription to do so. Cannabis is a very personalized medicine and in order to find the most benefit from using cannabis, specific dosing, strain, and consumption recommendations are recommended. Schedule your free appointment and speak with Apollo’s medical cannabis experts to receive a treatment plan tailored to you.
Recreational Cannabis can be purchased from online cannabis retail stores, such as the Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) in Ontario, the BC Cannabis Stores in British Columbia, or in person at province-sanctioned cannabis retail stores. Cannabis retail stores are required to be licensed by the province, and municipalities have the option of opting out of cannabis retail stores within their city limits.
Each province has taken an individual approach to whether it will allow private cannabis stores to open within the province. As a result of some of the gaps in accessing legal cannabis, recreational cannabis continues to be purchased through the illicit market from non-licensed cannabis retail stores or growers. The risk with this type of cannabis is that there is no regulated testing or quality assurance and consumers may not be getting exactly what is advertised in terms of strains, THC percentage, or terpenoid profiles. Provincially licensed cannabis retail stores are required to meet testing standards for all cannabis sold, and there are rigorous quality assurance and labeling processes in place to ensure consumers are receiving the highest quality cannabis. Recreational cannabis sold through regulated government stores is purchased from Health Canada approved licensed producers, the same companies that supply medical patients.
Since medical patients buy their medication directly from a licensed producer, there are often cost-savings as there is no middle supplier taking a cut, with compassionate pricing available.
It is important to note that retail stores are legally unable to give any medical advice to customers. As such, if you are looking to purchase recreational cannabis for a medical symptom (example: stress, anxiety or sleep issues), it is recommended to consider getting a prescription for medical cannabis from a qualified medical doctor and clinic.
Medical cannabis can only be purchased through Licensed Producers, licensed by the Federal Government of Canada via Health Canada. Medical cannabis is often less expensive than recreational cannabis, and as a patient, you will be provided with a personalized treatment plan for strain selection and dosing. Medical cannabis is tax deductible and may also be covered by insurance.
In order to register with a licensed producer, a patient must have a valid recommendation from a doctor to consume medical cannabis. Once registered with the LP, a patient may buy their cannabis and will receive their orders discreetly through the mail.
Many strains of medical cannabis are high in CBD, a non-intoxicating cannabinoid, that will not make the user feel “high” or uncomfortable. The most popular medical strains tend to have a 2:1 or 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC, whereas recreational cannabis focuses on much higher THC levels, which produces a psychoactive effect. Medical patients have better access to products that are meant to be healing: reducing inflammation, decreasing pain, and elevating mood, being just a few common effects of cannabis in medical contexts.
Medical cannabis is tax deductible and may also be covered by insurance. As of 2021, more insurance companies have begun including options for employers and insurers to include medical cannabis as an option for the insurees. Currently, the most common claims by medical cannabis patients are through their Healthcare Spending Account (HCSA/HSA), which offers a yearly reimbursable amount for medical expenses, which often now includes medical cannabis as a category. Please always check with your employer or insurance provider to ensure medical cannabis is covered under your plan or as a reimbursable HCSA/HSA expense.
Certain LPs offer compassionate pricing to ensure access for all Canadians who have been recommended medical cannabis, upon meeting one criterion such as low income, disability, being a senior citizen, and more. Apollo will help find you the best product and price for you to find relief.
Medical cannabis patients are allowed to possess 30x their daily prescription limit or up to a maximum of 150 grams, whichever is less, plus they can carry an additional 30 grams of recreational product. The limit for purchasing and possessing recreational cannabis in Canada is 30 grams on your person in public.
Minimum Age Requirements for Consumption
Under The Cannabis Act, the legal age for consumption of recreational cannabis is 19, however certain provinces have set their own age limit. Alberta’s legal age to purchase and consume recreational cannabis is 18, while Quebec has raised theirs to 21.
Unlike recreational cannabis use, there is no minimum age for medical consumption. Due to the fact that medical cannabis use requires a medical recommendation and ongoing treatment by a healthcare practitioner, there are no age restrictions on medical use and it is accessible to all patients who require it. Apollo is one of the few medical cannabis clinics that have physicians on staff who will consult with pediatric patients.
The Cannabis Act
The Cannabis Act is the set of federal laws that govern the use of recreational cannabis that came to effect across the nation on October 17, 2018. Local and municipal laws also apply to recreational cannabis, in many cases adding restrictive municipal laws such as opting out of recreational cannabis retail stores or raising the legal age for consumption for their individual area.
The federal law under The Cannabis Act states that the legal age of recreational use in Canada is 19 years, with some provinces setting their own legal age restrictions (ie. Alberta & Quebec).
The Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) was the set of laws that governed medical cannabis use in Canada prior to October 17, 2018. After cannabis legalization took effect, the ACMPR was absorbed into The Cannabis Act, although there have been no changes to the previous medical cannabis laws. Health Canada has committed to continuing to run the ACMPR program under The Cannabis Act, with plans to review it in 5 years.
Growing Cannabis in Canada
There are two legal ways that cannabis users can grow their own cannabis. One way is through the ACMPR where patients are granted the privilege to produce their own cannabis for medical purposes. Under the review and approval of Health Canada, ACMPR patients can calculate how much cannabis they can legally grow and store based on the requirements under their medical recommendation.
Under The Cannabis Act, it’s legal to recreationally grow 4 cannabis plants per household, with the exception of Manitoba and Quebec. It should be noted that this privilege cannot be shared between users and households (i.e. someone cannot grow your plants for you), and that there are different provincial restrictions that govern your plant growth.
If you are looking to grow more than 4 medicinal cannabis plants, or live in Quebec or Manitoba, you may consider applying for a personal production license.
Apollo offers you our Grow Your Own service, where we ensure all of your paperwork is filled out and submitted to Health Canada accurately to avoid being denied.
Where May I Consume Cannabis?
Recreational cannabis consumption laws can be extremely confusing. The Cannabis Act states that recreational cannabis may be consumed wherever tobacco can be consumed, however many provinces have tightened these restrictions. In Yukon Territory, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territory, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick, new laws have limited cannabis consumption to private residences.
As a medical cannabis patient, you may consume ( vaporize/ smoke ) anywhere tobacco use is permitted, such as outside of buildings, on the sidewalk, and in designated smoking areas. Medical patients are allowed more leeway when it comes to where you can use cannabis, but it is always recommended you have your medical cannabis documentation on you.
Can I Cross the Border with Cannabis?
Recreational and medical cannabis are strictly not allowed across international borders. This causes a bit of strife for individuals who rely on medical cannabis, as such, many will choose to vacation in cannabis-friendly destinations and U.S. states that have legalized medical cannabis.
It is important to repeat: It is illegal to cross a federal border with medical or recreational cannabis.
It does not matter whether you have a medical cannabis recommendation or are a recreational cannabis user, driving under the influence is illegal under The Cannabis Act and its subsequent Bill C-46.
Police Officers have the ability to perform a roadside saliva test should they feel that the driver is impaired. When transporting your personal cannabis in your car, ensure it is in its original packaging, and out of reach of the driver.
The Roles and Responsibilities of the Individual
Both medical and recreational users have a duty to use cannabis safely, and ensure the safety of those around them by storing it away from the reach of children and pets, and being sure to abide by the law in terms of possession limits, and refraining from driving while under the influence.
When trying to distinguish between medical and recreational cannabis, the processes for use are certainly different, but again all comes down to the intent of the user. The Cannabis Act opened up the privilege of choice for cannabis use for all Canadians with its passing, and it’s a privilege to be enjoyed by all that are legal age who wish to consume.
If you are interested in pursuing a medical cannabis recommendation, Apollo can help you navigate the legal medical cannabis system. As Canada’s premier cannabis clinic, we are able to help cannabis users access medical cannabis by connecting them for free to a qualified Apollo healthcare practitioner for a medical prescription. We are here to support all Canadians within their legal right to consume cannabis and pursue their own health and well-being through this incredible plant.