Legalization 101

Legalization 101: Women Tell Us What’s Different in Medical & Adult Use States

Episode 106

Show Notes

What's Different About Medical vs. Adult Use States?

All month we’re digging into how your experience with legal weed will vary depending on where you live, and what differences to expect in states with medical cannabis or adult-use cannabis. On today’s episode, we share stories of women who have lived in each type of market and run through all the differences that matter for you. And we ask a seemingly simple question that gets very complex: is there really a difference between “medical” use and “adult” use when it comes to weed?

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Podcast Guests



Ellen Lee Scanlon (00:00):

This podcast discusses cannabis and is intended for audiences 21 and over.

Stacy Zeal (00:06):

When I moved to Las Vegas, Las Vegas was a medical state only, but when I moved there, I wasn’t consuming cannabis. So around the time that I had my whole awakening of falling asleep driving and realizing I needed to take my insomnia seriously and finally turning to weed, recreational had just became legal. So that was my first experience, is being in a recreational market where you could go into the dispensary, as long as you’re over 21.

Stacy Zeal (00:33):

I started in the cannabis culture that was very loud and proud and out there, and it was in Las Vegas, so we do everything out there, and then I moved back home and I’m now I’m in a medical state. I’m in Maryland. Maryland’s a medical state only, and it’s very different, very different.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (00:52):

Welcome to How to Do the Pot, a podcast demystifying cannabis for women. I’m Ellen Scanlon.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (00:59):

You just heard Stacy Zeal, the CEO of and the host of High on Self-Care Podcast talking about her experience buying cannabis in two very different places. Las Vegas, an adult use market that’s loud and proud versus her home state of Maryland, a medical only market where buying cannabis is much more restrictive. But what does that mean exactly?

Ellen Lee Scanlon (01:26):

For the next few episodes in this limited series, we’ll be talking about all the differences between medical and adult use, which is also called recreational, cannabis markets, which are the two types of legal weed markets being implemented across the US on a state by state basis.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (01:45):

The difference between these two types of markets is really huge and important to understand, because as we’ll see, it affects everything about cannabis, from how it’s grown and distributed to how it’s packaged, sold, and consumed in each state that votes to legalize.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (02:04):

So the first thing to know, and this may seem obvious, is that these markets are called medical and adult use for a simple reason. In a medical market, it’s assumed that consumption is for treating medical-related symptoms, and in an adult use market, it’s assumed that consumption is simply to enjoy the effects, much like adults consuming alcohol for instance.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (02:27):

These two types of legal cannabis markets are named and designed based on the assumed uses that cannabis consumers are purchasing the products for, but as with most things in cannabis, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (02:45):

So, back to Stacy who you heard at the beginning of the show. Stacy started consuming cannabis for a medical reason to treat her insomnia while she was living in Nevada, a state that has a legalized adult use market. This means all she had to do to purchase weed was go to a dispensary with her government issued ID that showed she was over 21. But then during the pandemic, Stacy moved home to Maryland, a medical only market where things were really different.

Stacy Zeal (03:16):

I couldn’t go to a dispensary for a few months, because I needed to get my residency in Maryland in order to apply for a medical card. Applying for residency takes having a lease and this and all these kind of things, and that was during the pandemic, so the offices were limited and appointments and all that kind of stuff. Then also, here it is more expensive. It is definitely more expensive, because there aren’t a whole lot of customers. Even though it’s growing, there aren’t as many dispensaries, there aren’t as many growers as when you have a recreational market.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (03:49):

For Stacy, the medical only market in Maryland is more of a hassle and more expensive than the adult use market she left behind in Las Vegas. As it stands today, Maryland is one of 36 states that currently have a medical only market like this, where the sale and possession of cannabis is legal only if it’s been prescribed by an accredited physician to treat a medical purpose like migraines or epilepsy.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (04:17):

Medical growers and retail shops operate under regulations, which is good for ensuring the purity of the product, but these regulations can make it harder to start and run a cannabis business, which can limit options for consumers and drive up the price like what Stacy experienced.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (04:36):

Currently, there are 18 states like Nevada that have legalized adult use cannabis. Regulations are different in these states, which theoretically makes it easier for growers and retailers to get into the cannabis business. We’ll get into this in a future episode, but I’ll simplify a very rich topic for today and say it’s usually harder for women and people of color to find success in the cannabis industry.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (05:03):

Then don’t forget, that because cannabis is federally illegal, no cannabis businesses have access to banking. You heard me correctly. They cannot get a bank loan and generally have to find investors to fund their businesses. But still in adult use states, there’s more competition, which can benefit consumers by increasing availability and bringing down prices.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (05:27):

Stay with me here. There is some overlap between these two kinds of markets. A handful of states have legalized both medical and adult use markets, which means there are different regulations based on the intended end use of the cannabis. There are also states where cannabis is not legal at all, but it has been decriminalized. Which basically means if you’re caught with weed, you won’t face criminal charges anymore, but you will have to pay a fine, kind of like a speeding ticket.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (05:58):

All of this to say, based on the type of cannabis market that’s been allowed in your state, medical, adult use, both, neither, your elected officials will have the power to determine nearly everything about what is allowed where you live. From the way it’s grown, packaged, and distributed, to who gets to consume it, how it gets consumed and why.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (06:25):

Even beyond the state level, local officials also have a lot of power when it comes to determining the way cannabis comes into your community. For example, in California where adult use has been legal at the state level since 2016, still nearly 70% of cities and towns don’t allow cannabis retail stores. There’s a similar situation happening now in New Jersey. In these cities and counties that don’t allow cannabis, delivery is actually starting to be the workaround, and there’s a fair amount of controversy about that too.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (07:11):

We love podcasts and we know that finding your favorites can sometimes feel overwhelming, so we are starting the How to Do the Pot Podcast Club. Periodically we’ll share some of our favorite podcasts and interview the hosts of some really great shows, some about weed, some not. If you want to put a podcast on our radar, please reach out to hi, that’s or you can DM us at Do The Pot.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (07:44):

Hopefully by now it’s clear that the type of cannabis market lawmakers choose to implement in your state is crucially important, but why do these drastic distinctions between medical and adult use states exist in the first place? It’s all about who is allowed to consume cannabis and why, but I want to offer a question for you to consider. Is there really a difference between medical use and adult use when it comes to cannabis?

Ellen Lee Scanlon (08:17):

For lawmakers and for many Americans, the answer may seem like common sense. Of course, there’s a difference between medical and adult use cannabis. Medical consumers are treating symptoms of serious conditions like cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, while on the other hand, adult or many people call it recreational use is considered to be a want, not a need, and in some Americans’ minds, a destructive one.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (08:47):

You all know that I think about weed all the time, so you don’t have to, and I realize the cliche stoner stereotype that’s been around for decades is still alive and well for many. I want to offer another angle. Throughout this limited series, we will share the stories of amazing women who really just might convince you that those stereotypes are pretty out of touch. Stories from women like Ariana Newton, the Montana-based business relations and operations executive of

Ariana Newton (09:23):

It was really cool for me when I did start to consume and realize that it was helping me along this healing journey of personal growth, but also just physically too as a woman being able to kind of combat some of those aches and pains that you just go through.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (09:42):

Maryland-based, Stacy Zeal.

Stacy Zeal (09:44):

I look at it more so like it’s an essential tool in my toolkit.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (09:48):

And California-based, Kelsey Ledezma, who is full-time in a wheelchair and consumes cannabis to mediate nerve damage caused by cancer treatment when she was a child.

Kelsey Ledezma (10:00):

Just knowing that there was this information out there, it was a lot to kind of put into your head and think, “Wow, there is really a science behind this, it’s not just happenstance that it happens to help me.”

Ellen Lee Scanlon (10:13):

This limited series will help you understand the fast-growing cannabis industry in the US. It’s complicated and changing very quickly, but I’m here to break it down and help you find your way to whatever relationship with cannabis feels right for you. Because in the end, what we at How to Do the Pot have come to believe, as you may have guessed, is that all cannabis is medical cannabis.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (10:40):

Stay tuned for next week’s episode when we’ll go deeper into the medical side of weed and talk through why medical cannabis is often the last thing women try and the first thing that works.

Ellen Lee Scanlon (10:55):

For lots more information and past episodes, visit That’s also where you can sign up for our newsletter which comes out every other Friday. If you like How to Do the Pot, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, it helps more people find the show. Thanks to Madi Fair, our brand manager, Nick Patri, our producer, and our writer, Anna Williams. I’m Ellen Scanlon, and we’ll be back soon with more of How to Do the Pot.



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