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The Trouble with Recreational Legalization

The Trouble with Recreational Legalization

Legal Recreational Cannabis Could Be Problematic for Patients

Legal Marijuana Could Pose Problems

Most people assume all medical marijuana users are automatically on the side of recreational legalization. And to be fair, this is not an unfounded view – many patients are pro-recreational legalization, even though it could be directly harmful to their own well-being.

Recreational laws often forget the medical patient, and an industry that once had to focus on the medical user as its primary clientele can easily cast aside medical marijuana patients’ needs. Here’s how:

Higher prices

This is the most predictable side effect of a recreational industry. At first, higher prices are related to expansion costs as dispensaries struggle to meet demand. The second wave usually comes after reactionary legislation is imposed that either limits the amount of marijuana that can be possessed by an individual, driving up demand once again, or laws that limit the potency of products that use concentrated marijuana like edibles or tincture, forcing patients to buy more to get the same dosages.


As a new patient, going to any dispensary for the first time can be confusing. The types of illnesses that marijuana is used to treat are diverse, and each strain has different effects on different people. Many patients become loyal to a specific dispensary and then to the strains that work best for them. If industry focus is recreational, the types of strains dispensaries will grow, process and sell will be driven by a very different market.

Customer focus

When a dispensary’s clientele are patients, a standard of excellence is imposed upon the staff. While not an entirely medical setting, the things discussed between patients and counter staff at a dispensary are just as personal as a doctor’s office, the conversation is serious, and the relationship is bound and protected by the medical privacy act, HIPAA. Recreational personnel are not required to know much about the product and its uses as medicine, and they are definitely not required to keep anything said at the counter private.


Colorado is currently looking at legislation that will change the language of DUI laws to allow for the inclusion of marijuana. The proposal is a reaction to the concern that strong potency edibles and concentrates are being used by individuals who then get behind the wheel of a car and threaten their lives and the lives of others on the road. Medical marijuana patients would be left to make the choice between a potential DUI or treating their illness. Arizona, a state that rejected recreational legalization in November, is ahead of the game in this category, recently passing legislation to exempt medical marijuana patients from marijuana-related DUI.

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  • Jason Barker
    February 17, 2017, 7:22 pm

    Great Article!
    The legalization of cannabis for recreational use is a separate issue from safe and legal access to cannabis for medical use. I would caution policy makers against letting the debate surrounding legalization of cannabis for recreational use obscure the science and policy regarding the medical use of cannabis. Recreational use and medical use have only the criminal justice system in common. Any system of regulation for rec use should not be built on the backs of current medical cannabis laws.

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Dennis Domrzalski is managing editor of ABQ Free Press. Reach him at dennis@freeabq.com.

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