Will Recreational Marijuana Kill California's Medical Cannabis Industry?

California legalized medical marijuana back in 1997, and it's been an open secret how easy it is to obtain cannabis in the state. But now with recreational marijuana beginning on January 1st, many believe it will be the end of the state's medical industry.

Many experts say that recreational marijuana will mostly end California's medical cannabis industry. Medical marijuana sales in the state hit $2 billion in 2016, but that number is expected to drop to $1.4 billion next year. Experts also expect recreational cannabis sales to make up about 62 percent of marijuana sales in 2018, and the black market to cover another 30 percent. That leaves only 8 percent of marijuana sales to come from the medical industry.

There are three things that will continue to hold up the medical marijuana industry in the state. One is seriously ill patients who actually need marijuana to help treat their symptoms. They'll still need advice and care from doctors to ensure they're receiving the best treatment possible. The second is 18 to 20 year olds. California law allows anyone 18 or older to obtain a medical marijuana card, but people must be 21 or older to purchase recreational cannabis. So many 18 to 20 year olds will continue going to doctors to get their medical cards until they hit 21.

The third is price. Under California law, medical marijuana will be taxed at a lower rate than recreational marijuana, meaning their is some financial incentive to staying in the medical market. However, experts don't believe people will go through the hassle of going to a doctor to receive a letter of recommendation and going through the annual renewal process to save a couple percent on sales tax.

In many legal states, medical dispensaries have completely changed over to recreational dispensaries, meaning those who stay in the state's medical market receive fewer and fewer options for their cannabis needs. Still, considering many people in California received their medical ID cards for...let's say...less-than-necessary conditions, there will probably not be too many tears shed about the state's medical marijuana industry over the next few months.

(h/t LA Times)


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