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

2/19/2006: B1: Ernest "Doc" Knapp left, applies for a state medical marijuana identification card Thursday at the Sonoma County Health Department in Santa Rosa. His wife, Kaumari Sivadas, right, already has a card, top photo above. PC: news/ --2 of 2--The Medical Marijuana Identification Card for Kumari Sivadas purchased from the State of California Health Department. Note, the ID # on the card has been digitally grayed out. (Kent porter / The Press Democrat0 2006

BRAD BRANAN, THE SACRAMENTO

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.

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. In Sacramento County, the state card costs $166.

If you consumed an ounce of weed each month at a cost of $160, the savings on sales tax would still not equal the cost of the card each year. But if you consumed more, the card would become more economically viable.

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 eight ounces of weed a day, compared to an 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.