What is the Difference Between Medical Marijuana and Recreational Marijuana?
Medical marijuana has gained popularity over time, with the increase in doctors’ recommendations, legalized access, and licensed dispensaries. Today, more people are wondering about the differences between medical and recreational marijuana – if it is really safe, regulated, or beneficial for use.
Marijuana is often referred to as cannabis or weed and is produced from the hemp plant, one of the many strains of the Cannabis plant species. The plant itself will produce over 400 different chemical compounds throughout its life span. The cannabis plant was mainly used for industrial purposes to make fibers, like ropes and sails for use, back in the 1700s. Other uses include textiles, clothing, insulation, and biofuel.
The marijuana plant itself contains 113 chemical compounds that scientists call cannabinoids. Cannabinoids have different effects and benefits on the human body. Typically, the two main cannabinoids in marijuana use are THC and CBD – Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC and Cannabidiol or CBD. THC is the psychoactive element in marijuana that produces the “high” while CBD does not.
In fact, THC is unique among the rest of the cannabinoids due to it being the most potently psychoactive compound, thus producing a range of mostly pleasurable effects on the human body. However, marijuana used for medical purposes actually has lower THC content and high CBD content instead, so patients are unable to feel a similar level of euphoria as they would with regular recreational marijuana.
It has been found that CBD from the marijuana plant provides an excellent medical remedy for various conditions and disorders. With that, some governments have allowed and legalized the hemp plant to be grown with low THC content for use by marijuana patients vs. recreational marijuana users.
Recreational cannabis has mental and physical effects on the body, the most common being the “high” or euphoria. Other effects include changes in perception and concentration, impaired short-term memory, altered sense of time, increased relaxation, impaired bodily movements, and even an increase in appetite. This is due to the high THC content – the active ingredient in recreational cannabis.
Although THC has medical benefits as well, the psychoactive element is not ideal for medical patients who are looking to use marijuana to exclusively address their health condition. So marijuana with low THC to CBD ratio is commonly used for recreational purposes only.
Recreational and medical cannabis: difference in quality
The quality between medical and recreational marijuana is worth noting. Mainly the difference lies in how the hemp plant is cultivated and produced. Recreational marijuana can be grown either indoors or outdoors in the states which allow it, while regulations for medical marijuana are far more stringent – this is one of the main differences between recreational and medical marijuana production.
With all rights reserved, the legal production process to grow medical marijuana is stricter and requires more care since it will be consumed by patients ranging from children to elderly, with health conditions diagnosed by a licensed doctor. There are legalities in place to ensure safe and clean production such as bans on pesticide use and close monitoring of the plant while it is grown in a controlled indoor environment.
Protocols must be observed throughout production before medical marijuana is distributed to the medical dispensaries. In the end, it can be said that medical marijuana is the purer and safer end product.
Recreational and medical cannabis: effects on the human body
Recreational cannabis is often preferred by people who are after some type of social enjoyment or simply for their own personal satisfaction. Usually, it is acquired by a specific age group only – that which are legally allowed to get high without getting distressed. There is a legal age limit imposed on recreational users in the countries and states which allow its use. Meanwhile, medical cannabis is allowed across a wider age group and even those with conditions or disabilities, making it accessible to more people.
Medical marijuana has gained a lot of attention in recent years, growing in popularity. This is due to legal changes, improved accessibility, and availability, and more studies being conducted to research on its medical purposes. People are often confused about the effects of medical vs recreational marijuana on the body.
While scientific studies have been continuously ongoing, it is still inadequate due to production and governmental restrictions across states and countries. However, there are enough initial studies which have been helpful to get a picture of how medical marijuana is beneficial for a variety of purposes.
These include how it reduces nausea of chemotherapy patients, improves the appetite of HIV/AIDS positive patients, reduces chronic pain and muscle spasms, and even treating various forms of epilepsy. Note that these medicinal benefits in medical marijuana are due to the CBD component, and not the high THC content which is found in recreational marijuana.
The effects of cannabis on medical marijuana patients may also differ, varying on their condition, overall health, age, and other circumstances. The CBD levels, method of consumption, as well as particular cannabis strain (with a recommendation from a doctor) are factors that should be taken into account upon the use of medical marijuana. Take note that these should only be observed in states with legalized cannabis use and a registered dispensary or company for distribution. Currently, medical marijuana is legal in 29 states in America.
Recreational and medical cannabis: legalities
There is a difference between medical and recreational cannabis across federal laws, states, and countries. Serious fines and/or jail time awaits users or those who are found in possession of recreational cannabis. It is not accessible to people who wish to find recreational marijuana in countries where the use of cannabis is not legal at all. It is best for one to really travel to a state where cannabis use is legal, this ensures higher chances of availability and access to cannabis.
Shopping for medical marijuana is different from recreational marijuana. Generally, one needs to be above 21 years old and with a valid identification card (ID) on hand in order to buy recreational weed. The products of cannabis also vary in form across states. For example, there are recreational cannabis edibles available in shops in California, but none in the state of Hawaii.
Meanwhile, to buy medical marijuana the laws are different. Medical marijuana dispensaries require a Medical Marijuana Card which the patient can acquire, under the listed medical conditions by the Department of Health Services in that state. Only physicians with a medical cannabis license are allowed to approve Medical Marijuana Cards. This assures the staff at the medical dispensaries regarding the purchase of cannabis and that the patient will be using it to treat a health condition.
In Hawaii, these conditions include cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, lupus, AIDS/HIV, epilepsy or seizure disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), among others. First, patients need to acquire a Valid 329 or a Medical Cannabis Card.
There is an important difference between medical and recreational marijuana access because the patient’s medical marijuana card (and prescription, if any) will shield them from prosecution in their respective state.
Summary of differences between medical and recreational cannabis: which is better?
Overall, there are many differences between medical and recreational marijuana – which should be considered before one can decide what they would need or want. Note that before acquiring either product, one must be of legal age, with a valid government-issued ID, and in a place with legalized access to marijuana.Medical marijuana has gained popularity over time, with the increase in doctors' recommendations, legalized access, and licensed dispensaries. Today, more
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.
Like what you just read? You can find similar content on the topic tags shown below.
Stay connected with the latest news in cannabis extraction, science and testing
Get the latest news with the FREE weekly Analytical Cannabis newsletterThere’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 ]]>