KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Recreational marijuana sales began Friday in the Kansas City area and across Missouri.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services started issuing comprehensive licenses to dispensaries, allowing them to start selling for recreational use.

But advocates still say marijuana buyers should consider getting a medical card.

Even with recreational weed available, those who advocate for the health benefits of marijuana said the best way to consume cannabis in Missouri is with a medical marijuana card.

Both cultivators and dispensaries expect the legalization of marijuana will grow Missouri’s cannabis industry.

But the biggest advantage for medical marijuana might be the price users pay. Medical products are taxed at a flat rate of 4% in Missouri.

The same weed sold for recreational use will have a 6% sales tax. If voters approve it in April, several Kansas City-area cities and counties plan to implement a 3% local tax as well. For example, marijuana purchased in Kansas City could see a local tax for Kansas City, Jackson County and the state of Missouri, totaling 12%.

There are also some protections at work for Missouri medical marijuana card-holders.

Missouri’s Amendment 3 added a provision preventing an employer from discriminating against an employee with a medical marijuana identification card.

“Just because you have adult use and you smoke doesn’t mean you’re protected,” Jonathan Lewis with Mo Gro Solutions said.

Lewis said just about anyone can qualify for a medical card in Missouri. Common conditions like depression, migraines and arthritis typically allow people to receive a card.

A medical marijuana card is also now good for three years, but if you want to apply to be a recreational use cultivator, you’ll have to renew that license every year.

But regardless, both medical and recreational marijuana must be consumed in private.

It’s still against the law to smoke or consume cannabis in parks, on sidewalks, and in schools, both private and public. Marijuana consumers also can’t smoke in moving cars, and rental property owners can demand that their renters refrain from smoking. 

Lewis said he can foresee lounges in Missouri permitting pot use, but that would require rezoning in the same way hookah bars permit indoor smoke.