Medical vs Recreational Prices: How Much Should You Pay for Cannabis?

medical vs recreational prices

If you haven’t cut the cord yet, you’re probably getting inundated with political campaign ads every time you turn on your TV.

It may only be a midterm elections year, but there’s a lot at stake.

One of the key talking points you’ve seen countless ads for is weed. This is especially true if you live in a state where some form of legalization is on the ballot.

Now, even if you have your medical marijuana card and live in a legalized state, you won’t want to toss it out if the use of recreational weed passes.

Why? Because of costs. Specifically, between medical vs recreational prices.

If you’ve considered tossing out your MMC because you live in a legalized state, you may want to think again. Keep reading to find out about the difference in prices.

First Up: Where’s It Legal?

Technically, weed is legal in 29 states. That’s how many states have passed medical marijuana laws.

But for recreational purposes, it’s legal in 10. Well, nine plus the District of Columbia. But, more are likely coming down the pipe.

Why? Because state governments are making a ton of money off it. Other states will see the revenue pouring in and finally decide to legalize it.

That’s the hope, anyway.

Not every state has the same taxes which means the cost is different depending on where you live. We’re going to break down each state’s cost-structure so you can see if it’s cheaper to keep your card, apply for a card, or throw caution to the wind and go full-on Spicoli.

Washington, D.C.

In D.C., it’s not illegal to consume or grow it, but it’s illegal to buy or sell it.

Unless you have a medical marijuana card, of course. Then, you can buy it from one of five dispensaries in the District.

But, it’s pretty easy to attain one. You only need your doctor to recommend that they believe marijuana is beneficial to you. That’s it.

The medical marijuana application fee is $100, or $25 if you’re a low-income patient. The going rate for a gram is around $18 for a beginner strain.

Since you can’t buy recreational marijuana, only grow or have it “gifted” to you, the cost is cheaper than buying it for medicinal purposes. We’re factoring in the cost of the application, doctor’s visit, etc.

Gifting has gone beyond you’re buddy tossing you a blunt. Companies will throw in a free gift of bud if you buy their product — like a t-shirt — which is legal but usually done covertly.

Recreation: N/A
Medical: $18 / gram


Alaska has about 65 recreational dispensaries. Prices hover around $20 a gram or $305 for an ounce. The tax on weed in Alaska is $50 per ounce (flower).

For medicinal marijuana, you need a doctor’s statement that you suffer from one of many debilitating diseases. The cost to apply for an MMC is $25 and you can renew it every year for $20.

There is no tax on medicinal marijuana.

Recreation: $335 / ounce
Medical: $305 / ounce


California has 358 recreational marijuana stores. While, yes, that’s a huge number, it only accounts for less than one store per 100,000 residents.

For recreational pot, the average price is around $20 per gram. California charges a 15% sales tax and 9.25% excise tax.

Getting an MMC in California is incredibly easy. Technically, you don’t need one if you have a doctor’s recommendation.

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This costs $49 and you can get one online. This allows you to enter a dispensary. But, you can get both a rec and a medical marijuana ID for $59.

Some dispensaries may require both and law enforcement won’t hassle you as much if you have the ID. A premium ID costs $129 and included the rec, marijuana ID, and a Grower’s Recommendation.

You don’t pay taxes on medical marijuana in California.

Recreation: $24.85 / gram
Medical: $20 / gram


Colorado has long had some of the laxest weed laws in the country. But, you do pay the State a 15% excise tax and 15% sales tax to buy their pot.

They have an enormous amount of dispensaries to go along with that huge tax, too. As of Feb. 2018, Colorado had a total of 1,021. 503 are med dispensaries and the other 518 are for rec sales.

To put it into perspective, they have more than twice as many dispensaries than they do Starbucks and Walmarts combined.

You can also get weed on the cheap in Denver. As little as $10 can get you a gram.

To get a medical card, you’ll have to pay $60-100 for a doctor consultation and another $15 application fee. You’ll also have to pay the state sax tax of 2.9% if you have a medical card.

Recreation: $13 / gram
Medical: $10.29 / gram


You’ve probably heard that Maine is a pretty progressive state. When it comes to weed, it depends on how you look at it.

If you have a medical card, you don’t pay a tax.

But, in order to get your medical card, you do need to get a recommendation from a doctor. Then, you can choose to sign up with the Maine Patient Registry but it’s optional. It costs you $0 and they’ll mail you your card.

But you can use an out-of-state card and still get your pot without paying a tax. It’s also dirt cheap. One source pegs a gram of weed in Portage at $5.

That all sounds great so far, right? Here’s where it gets tricky.

Even though Maine’s been a legal state since voters approved it in Nov. 2016. Since then, their conservative governor’s tried to throw everything but the kitchen sink at weed to stall its recreational sale.

Until May, he was winning. But the State’s legislature overrode his veto of legalization legislation. Residents will still have to wait until rec sales get approved and structured.

It’s assumed Maine will charge a modest 10% retail sales tax on weed. There’s no definitive word if they’ll be extra fees on top of it.

Recreation: N/A
Medical: $5 / gram


Massachusettes is 100% legal as of July 1. The bad news? There’s a whole lot of red tape that still needs to get cut before they officially start selling it.

When they do, they’ll charge a 10.75% retail tax, 6.25% sales tax, and 3% local municipality tax. Of course, those are estimates. People could spend a lot more.

The good news is, you can get a medical marijuana card for a $50 application fee. Like the other states, you’ll need a doctor to deem it medically necessary.

The cost of medium-quality bud in Boston will run you $220 per ounce.

Recreation: N/A
Medical: $220 / ounce


Anyone over the age of 21 can buy recreational weed in Nevada. Las Vegas alone has 48 dispensaries and Reno has nine. But there are others throughout the state.

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You’ll pay a 10% excise tax and 15% sales tax on every purchase. When it comes to medical marijuana, there’s a 2% excise tax.

Nevada accepts out-of-state MMCs. If you want to get your own, you’ll have to pay for a doctor evaluation.

They’ll also charge you a $50 (one-year certification) or $100 (two-year certification) on top of their fee. You can register for free on the state’s Cardholder Registry site.

You can buy weed in Las Vegas for as low as $10 per gram.

Recreation: $12.50 / gram
Medical: $10.20 / gram


Let’s start with the bad news. A medical marijuana card in Oregon can cost you $200. That’s, by far, the most expensive fee on the list.

The good news is weed is really cheap. An ounce of medium-quality pot will run you less than a medical card. There’s some serious talk that the prices will get even lower, considering they have more pot than they know what to do with.

The taxes aren’t too bad either. There’s a 17% state tax and some local municipalities will charge an optional 3% tax. They don’t charge a fee if you have a medical card.

So, where do you buy it? That’s even better news.

They have more than 560 dispensaries. Portland alone has 159 dispensaries. In other words, you can buy it just about anywhere.

Recreation: $225 / ounce (includes optional municipality tax)
Medical: $188 / ounce


In Vermont, you can possess, consume, and grow cannabis but you can’t buy or sell it.

The issue Vermont is having mirrors that of their New England compatriots. In other words, the residents want weed and the State keeps trying to block it.

At least in Massachusetts, they’re making headway. Vermont has a long way to go before it’s legal to buy recreational marijuana.

You can buy medical marijuana if you have a doctor’s recommendation. But, the list of ailments Vermont considers a debilitating medical condition isn’t long.

You also have to pay a $50 registration fee. The bigger problem may be that there are only five dispensaries operating on a medical marijuana license.

Recreation: N/A
Medical: $300 / ounce


Washington and Oregon don’t only share a border, they share a love of weed.

Washington’s prices for pot are close to its southern neighbor but the taxes are much higher. They charge 8% state tax and a whopping 37% excise tax.

Your doctor has to qualify you for a medical marijuana authorization. You’ll pay them for the assessment. You can opt to register on the state’s database if you want to grow your own bud, but it’s voluntary.

When you buy weed with your medical authorization, you’ll save on the state tax. But, you’ll still have to pay the 37% excise tax. You can buy weed from any of the 100+ dispensary and retail stores statewide.

Recreation: $287 / ounce (includes optional municipality tax)
Medical: $271 / ounce

What’s the Bottom Line on Medical vs Recreational Prices?

When it comes to marijuana, the difference between medical vs recreational prices comes down to two things. The first is where you live. The second is taxes.

Buying weed with an MMC will save you on taxes, but you won’t pay less for the bud itself than you would as a rec user.

Check out more articles in our cannabis section.