Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1. Paul Kitagaki Jr. Brad Branan
Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1. Paul Kitagaki Jr. Brad Branan

California Weed

Does it make financial sense to keep your medical marijuana card after Jan. 1?

By Brad Branan

bbranan@sacbee.com

December 28, 2017 04:00 AM

Starting New Year’s Day, adults no longer will need a doctor’s recommendation to legally buy marijuana in California.

But don’t throw out that medical marijuana card just yet.

Depending on how much cannabis you consume, it might make sense to remain a medical marijuana customer instead of becoming a recreational one. Some medical consumers get a break on taxes, and all of them can buy more and stronger cannabis products than recreational customers.

Considering just the costs, it pays to have a medical card if you buy a lot of marijuana and you have the right kind of recommendation. To get a break on sales taxes – 8.25 percent in Sacramento – medical patients must have a state-issued medical card rather than the cards that are available from doctors.

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Everyone pays other taxes, either directly or indirectly, including a 15 percent state excise tax and pot-specific local taxes (4 percent on gross sales in Sacramento).

State-issued cards must be obtained through county health departments and cost significantly more than other doctor recommendations. The card costs $100, or half that if you’re Medi-Cal eligible.

If you consumed an ounce of weed each month at a cost of $160, the savings on sales tax would pay for the card and leave another $50 in your pocket each year.

A bigger consideration for medical patients may be what the card allows you to buy. Any medical card will allow you to buy up to 8 ounces of weed a day, compared to 1 ounce for recreational customers.

Any type of medical recommendation allows users to purchase concentrated forms of cannabis, such as oils or waxes, that are twice as strong as what is available to recreational consumers. The limit on THC, an active compound in cannabis, is 1,000 milligrams per package for recreational products and twice that for medical.

The limit for THC in edible products is 100 milligrams per product, for medical and recreational customers alike. State regulators have sought to prevent customers from getting too high, but some medical marijuana advocates have complained that the limit will remove some of the most popular edibles from the market. The limits on THC in edibles are the same in other states with legal recreational weed.