What’s the difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana?
If you live in a state which has legalized both medical and recreational marijuana, you may wonder about the differences between them. Especially if you suffer from a condition that medical marijuana is commonly prescribed to treat, you may wonder whether to get a medical marijuana card and receive prescribed medical marijuana, or to just go to the local dispensary and get recreational pot.
It’s a great question. There are some important differences between medical and recreational marijuana.
First, let’s define our terms.
What is medical marijuana?
Medical marijuana can refer to the whole, unprocessed plant, or extractions of the relevant chemicals that give marijuana its properties. Although marijuana has over 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids, each with a different effect on the human body, the two major chemical components that are used in medical marijuana are THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and CBD (cannabidiol). THC is the psychoactive compound that gives marijuana its high. CBD does not produce any psychoactive effects. Medical marijuana typically has a higher proportion of CBD and a lower proportion of THC, so it produces less of a high or no high at all.
What kinds of conditions can medical marijuana treat?
Although marijuana’s status as a Schedule 1 drug has made research and testing extremely difficult, marijuana is often used to treat a variety of conditions with positive, sometimes extremely positive, results.
- Appetite loss
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Eating disorders
- Muscle spasms
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic pain, vomiting and nausea resulting from chemotherapy
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Anxiety, depression and PSTD
Medical marijuana versus recreational marijuana
Medical marijuana is taken with the supervision and guidance of a medical professional.
Medical marijuana strains are developed with attention to therapeutic potency, not for the high. Typically medical marijuana has a higher CBD content and lower THC content than recreational marijuana. CBD is the compound that has proven to be beneficial for a variety of conditions.
You must have a qualifying condition to get a medical marijuana recommendation from a medical professional. You must have a certification card, and this must be renewed regularly.
You must be over 18 years of age to buy medical marijuana for yourself. There are special circumstances where this age limit is waived, as for children suffering from epilepsy, whose parents may get permission to use medical marijuana or medical marijuana extracts for treatment.
Medical marijuana is subject to greater regulation and testing for safety and efficacy. Because the medical market has been around for much longer than the recreational, medical marijuana cultivators have had time to produce a high-quality and consistent product. It is grown in a controlled environment. THC and CBD percentages will be noted for each product.
Medical marijuana is less expensive than recreational marijuana since it is not subject to the same taxes.
Medical marijuana is legal in more states than recreational marijuana.
If recreational marijuana is legal in your state, anyone over the age of 21 can buy it at a dispensary.
Recreational marijuana usually has a higher THC content, and strains are typically developed with attention to the quality of the psychoactive effects.
There is no supervision or guidance with recreational marijuana.
Recreational marijuana is, for now, a poorly-regulated and sparsely-supervised affair. Product purity and safety oversight — for example, pesticide testing — is not yet consistently and reliably done on recreational pot, although laws require it. States have been slow to grant certification to laboratories to do such testing. Massachusetts is now moving toward having recreational pot tested at the same labs as medical marijuana.
Recreational marijuana brings in considerably more tax revenue to the state than medical marijuana. Recreational dispensaries often charge more than medical dispensaries.
Recreational marijuana is only legal in ten states.
Medical marijuana is specifically cultivated for treating painful or disabling conditions that keep you from enjoying life
Medical marijuana’s purpose is to let you live your life. Because it has higher proportions of CBD than recreational pot, it won’t disrupt your normal routine. While taking it, you can still feel sharp and clear, without feeling high. CBD also doesn’t cause anxiety, as THC sometimes does.
If you’re suffering from a condition that medical marijuana has shown to be effective in treating, and if you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, speak to your physician and see if you qualify. Your condition doesn’t have to make you miserable. Medical marijuana may help you get back to living and enjoying your life.What’s the difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana? If you live in a state which has legalized both medical and recreational marijuana, you may wonder about the
There’s No Significant Difference Between Recreational and Medical Marijuana in the US, Study Claims
In recent days, thanks to the restrictive measures Covid-19 has forced authorities to put in place, the distinction between recreational and medicinal cannabis dispensaries has been made drastically clear in parts of the US. In states like Illinois and Massachusetts, medical stores have remained open, after being deemed “essential” businesses, while recreational stores have been forced to close.
But, according to a new study, the only major difference between most recreational and medicinal cannabis products is the store they’re sold in.
Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the study also found that more than 90 percent of the legal cannabis products offered in medical dispensaries vastly exceed the THC levels recommended for chronic pain relief. M edical marijuana vs recreational marijuana
According to the researchers, cannabis products with 5 percent THC are sufficient enough to reduce chronic pain. Yet their study found that medical dispensaries across the US are advertising products containing 35 percent THC – levels on par with recreational products.
To reach their conclusions, the authors of the study scoured the websites of legal dispensaries in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Colorado, New Mexico, Washington, and California. They then recorded the concentrations of THC and CBD in advertised products. In total, 8,505 cannabis products across 653 dispensaries were sampled.
After analyzing the results, the researchers did find that the average THC concentration in medical products was slightly lower (19.3 percent) than the level found in products from recreational programs (21.5 percent). And the average CBD level in medical products was also slightly higher (2 percent) than in recreational products (1.3 percent).
But, according to the researchers, these averages shouldn’t be given too much heed, as the products’ cannabinoid concentrations varied extensively.
Ultimately, the researchers argue, the levels of THC in products from the medical and recreational stores were startlingly similar – and high. And that finding, they say, is worrying news for medical patients.
“We know that high-potency products should not have a place in the medical realm because of the high risk of developing cannabis-use disorders, which are related to exposure to high THC-content products,” said Edgar Alfonso Romero-Sandoval, an associate professor at Wake Forest School of Medicine and lead author of the study. No pain, no strain
As the researchers didn’t test the products themselves to validate the advertised THC:CBD content, the study’s conclusions are contingent on the accuracy of the products’ labels.
But, even considering that limitation, Romero-Sandoval and his colleagues are still calling for stricter regulations on medical marijuana products, in order to safeguard patients from developing THC dependencies and cannabis use disorders.
“Better regulation of the potency of medical marijuana products is critical,” Romero-Sandoval said in a statement. “The FDA regulates the level of over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen that have dose-specific side effects, so why don’t we have policies and regulations for cannabis, something that is far more dangerous?”
Cannabis use disorder (CUD) is recognized by the National Institute of Drug Abuse as an illness typified by cravings and withdrawal symptoms when cannabis isn’t taken. As legalization spreads across the United States there have been concerns that rates of CUD will follow and put further pressure on health services.
In a somewhat ironic finding, one recent study did find that the cannabis-based mouth spray Sativex can significantly reduce the rate of relapse for people with a cannabis dependency.
But, that result aside, many drug reformers are still mindful of public health policies that could help tackle cannabis dependence.
“Even a small percentage increase in regular cannabis users can increase the risk of developing problems like cannabis dependence, which services would be unlikely to have the capacity to support,” Ian Hamilton, a senior lecturer in addiction at the University of York, told Analytical Cannabis last year.
“For the small proportion of users who develop problems, support services need to be adequately funded and available – something [US] states and countries should factor in when thinking of changing their cannabis policies.”
Leo joined Analytical Cannabis in 2019. From research to regulations and analysis to agriculture, his writing covers all the need-to-know news for the cannabis industry. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Newcastle University and a master’s degree in science communication from the University of Edinburgh.
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