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Medical vs Recreational Marijuana: The Difference

by Angel Ferrer 4 min read


What is the Difference Between “Medical” and “Recreational” Cannabis?

When you think about cannabis, you might picture someone chilling on the couch, smoking some marijuana, hazily immersed in thought, or passing around a bong or joint, adhering to the unwritten “puff, puff, pass” rule of the land. 

However, LEGAL recreational use of cannabis is a relatively recent advancement in America. Before now, it was more likely to see cannabis used medicinally, or illegally for its euphoric side effects. 

In 2018 and beyond, the legal and medical landscape is evolving fast in the US, paving the way for newfound (legitimate) medical uses and legalized consumption of this natural herb.

But what’s the Difference?

Due to agricultural efforts and expert breeding, cannabis is available in a variety of different strains. Some strains are recommended for specific medicinal applications, while others focus on recreational use and euphoria. 

Today, we are looking at the differences between medical and recreational cannabis.

Cannabis for Medical Use

Cannabis used medicinally generally contains higher amounts of CBD, whereas recreational marijuana often focuses on the levels and concentration of THC or other cannabinoids. Throughout history, cannabis was originally used for medicinal reasons, only gaining popularity for its euphoria-inducing effects later on. 

In recent years, cannabis has gained popularity as a potential preventative and treatment agent for a broad range of medical conditions. As legal restrictions on its use in the United States have been lessened, the medical and research community has greater freedom for testing and studying the potential medical applications of cannabis in humans. 

Such research has, of late, yielded very promising results, with cannabis or cannabis-derived products showing promise for treating a broad range of health conditions. In fact, in a landmark decision, the FDA has recently approved the first ever cannabis-derived pharmaceutical drug for the treatment of epilepsy (U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2018).

Medical Dispensaries

When obtaining medical cannabis, a trip to the dispensary is in generally in order. In states where recreational marijuana use is prohibited, patients must have an ID validating their age, as well as a medical cannabis card or prescription from their physician. 

See More: Can You Overdose on Cannabis?

Some dispensaries provide privacy rooms allowing for patients to have private one on one consults in order to select the most appropriate strain or blend for their use case. Medical advice is not generally offered, but well-trained staff members or “Budtenders” can answer any questions about the various strains in the store (Huntsman, 2018) and how they might impact your symptoms or make you feel after use. 

Cutting Corners with Your Cannabis Card

Those who use cannabis medicinally are often allowed a variety of perks, although they vary by state. In some jurisdictions, you may be able to receive a tax break or cannabis at a discounted price. Patients in states with medical cannabis may also be allowed to carry a larger amount or even grow a limited number of their own plants. Minors may also be able to obtain legal access in extreme cases, such as with cancer or epilepsy (Huntsman, 2018). 

Marijuana Legalization

The controversy surrounding marijuana is beginning to subside. As research continues to reveal the potential health benefits and legitimate uses of cannabis, more states are exploring legalization options. It is expected that in 2019 and beyond we will see more jurisdictions follow in suite of states such as Colorado and Washington which have successfully legalized cannabis and reaped the rewards, both financial and otherwise. Many hope that legalizing marijuana will also result in safer strains, purity, and higher quality products. 

See More: Legalized Cannabis Reduces Opioid Abuse

Banishing the Fear with Science

There have been a number of misunderstandings concerning cannabis over the years. These misunderstandings have led to a history of fear and negative stigmas surrounding the plant, especially in the United States.

The continual exploration of THC and CBD on the human body may assist in the discovery of more ways to aid those who are suffering, putting to rest some of the negative connotations associated with the consumption of this plant.

The use of cannabis in place of modern medicine, or in addition to it, is a growing trend, driven in part by consumer demand for a safer and all natural alternative to dangerous prescriptions. A notable example of this relates to the use of cannabis as a non-addictive, safer alternative to opiates for the management of chronic pain.

Vaping for your Health?

One way to use cannabis is by vaping. Vaping is a healthier way to take in cannabinoids without the damaging effects of smoke on the lungs and other carcinogenic byproducts created from combustion. 

Read on: Marijuana Vaporizers

Research has shown that vaping at optimal temperatures can enhance the actives in your cannabis, resulting in an experience and effects that are up to four times as strong as with other methods of use. It also allows for benefits to activate faster (CV Sciences, 2016).

Closing Thoughts

While recreational cannabis is gaining traction as a safe way to experience euphoria, relaxing and anti-anxiolytic effects, medical cannabis offers the same health benefits and more, sometimes without the psychoactive byproducts. 

The acceptance of cannabis is growing, and many states that have allowed medicinal use are considering expanding into recreational use. As research surfaces, we expect to see medical uses for cannabis expand over time, eventually becoming a mainstream alternative or complementary “drug” used alongside traditional Western medicine.