KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Missouri voters approved the amendment of recreational marijuana on Tuesday, but some experts advise users to pursue a medical marijuana license, despite new legislation that will make it available to anyone above the age of 21 by 2023.

It’s not the quality or potency that differentiates recreational and medical marijuana from one another, but the legal protections that a medical license provides, said Anthony David, chief operating officer at Green Precision Analytics, a cannabis testing lab in Kansas City.

“I mean, if you’re using cannabis for medical reasons, as most of the patients in the state of Missouri are, having that medical card affords you protections with your employer or with your insurance company,” David said.

“I think it affords you those protections that you wouldn’t have under adult usage, so it would be the same if you’re taking Xanax that you’re not prescribed.”

David said having a medical marijuana card offers a safety net for users who come face-to-face with law enforcement or the court systems by providing them with documented proof that they are legally permitted to possess cannabis.

Marijuana card holders are protected as long as they do not carry over the limit allowed by the state, which is no more than 3 ounces within a 30-day period for recreational users and 6 ounces for medical users.

David said a medical card can also protect you at work.

“If your employer has a policy in place that says, ‘You can use medical marijuana if it’s prescribed to you by a doctor and your job is in jeopardy, but we don’t allow recreational use,’ then that would kinda be a good example,’ David said.

Not only do individuals with a medical marijuana card have more legal protection and documentation, but they also pay less in cannabis taxes.

Medical marijuana is currently taxed at 4% in the state of Missouri, according to the Missouri Department of Revenue, but recreational marijuana will be taxed at 6%, sometimes upwards of 9%

Local governments can tack on an additional taxation of 3% to recreational products, allowing some dispensaries to tax up to 5% more on recreational products than medical. 

David said this is a major incentive for customers to go medical.

He also said it’s important to note that medical and recreational marijuana go through the exact same testing protocols in Missouri, debunking any myths that medical marijuana might be more potent than recreational.

He said the important thing to know is that they are both regulated, free of toxins and safe.

“What we’re doing here is ensuring a safety protocol for people,” David said. “We are ensuring that the cannabis that you’re buying at a dispensary is free from microbes, it’s free from pesticides, it’s free from heavy metals.” 

To register for a Missouri medical marijuana license, visit the Department of Health and Senior Service’s website.