Medical and Recreational Cannabis - The Differences Explained
With the growing increase in cannabis legalization, the difference between medical and recreational marijuana has become a constantly asked question by most consumers.
Marijuana is an extremely versatile plant that can be used for various purposes, including industrial, recreational, and medicinal uses.
Medicinal marijuana has massively been considered a safer alternative to conventional medicine for numerous conditions like chronic pain, anxiety, muscle spasms, and depression.
On the other hand, recreational marijuana is popularly used by nonpatients to provide a pleasurable effect and an incredible high.
But are there any significant differences between these two products? Do they have a different molecular structure? Do they deliver different effects?
This article will go into detail into the differences between medical marijuana vs recreational marijuana and the benefits of each.
A Quick Look At The Marijuana Plant
Marijuana, commonly referred to as cannabis, weed, pot, mary jane, ganja, or whichever slang term you call it, is a plant belonging to the Cannabis sativa species.
Marijuana plants naturally produce over 400 different chemicals, with more than 100 being cannabinoids.
Cannabinoids have a very long history of consumption for both medicinal and recreational purposes.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the most abundant cannabinoids in marijuana plants.
They deliver their effects by influencing the CB1 and CB2 receptors in our body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
THC is the psychoactive and intoxicating component in marijuana. This means that it produces a high and pleasurable feeling of euphoria.
Conversely, CBD is non-psychoactive, and it won’t get you high. Instead, it is thought to possess therapeutic properties for various illnesses and conditions.
Taking this into consideration, marijuana plants used for medicinal purposes contain low THC and relatively higher CBD levels.
This way, patients are able to feel the therapeutic effects of CBD rather than the psychoactive effects of your ordinary recreational marijuana.
That said, some state laws have allowed the cultivation of marijuana plants with low THC amounts for use by medical patients, unlike recreational pot.
Differences In Quality - Medical Marijuana Vs Recreational Marijuana
While medicinal marijuana is primarily focused on CBD versus THC, its quality compared to recreational weed is a vital consideration.
The quality difference between these products is based on how the plants are cultivated and processed.
In states where the law allows, users of legal age can grow a specified number of recreational marijuana plants either indoors or outdoors.
In comparison, the production of medical marijuana must comply with all the stringent regulations.
The legal cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes is a regulated process. It requires extreme care as the products are consumed by patients of all ages, from children to the elderly, with qualifying conditions.
In most cases, medical marijuana plants are grown indoors where environmental conditions are controlled.
Additionally, practices such as growing organically without the use of pesticides or other potentially harmful chemicals are observed.
This guarantees purer, safer, and highly potent medical marijuana products.
Differences In Cannabinoid Content - Medical Marijuana Vs Recreational
The most significant difference between recreational marijuana and medical marijuana lies in their cannabinoid content (THC and CBD).
While recreational marijuana possesses high THC amounts, medical marijuana produces higher CBD levels and low THC.
As noted above, THC is the cannabinoid responsible for getting its users notoriously high. And although it also possesses medical benefits, its psychoactive elements make it less desirable for users looking to use marijuana solely for medical reasons.
CBD won’t get you high. Numerous studies and anecdotal reports have proven its potency to help with many medical conditions.
Some of which include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, cancer symptoms, pain relief, and more.
Medical marijuana and recreational marijuana both possess CBD and THC.
But patients are set to gain more medical benefits from medical products containing a higher CBD:THC ratio.
Hence, if you’re interested in medical cannabis use, you should avoid recreational products that possess a higher THC content.
Different Effects On The Human Body
Because marijuana plants are still deemed illegal at a federal level in the United States, only some places have allowed it for recreational purposes.
In addition, there is an age limit on recreational marijuana in states where it is legal. For instance, recreational customers must be 21 years and above to enter recreational dispensaries in Michigan.
On the other hand, medical cannabis is allowed for use by people of all ages with a medical cannabis card.
Medical marijuana is increasingly becoming popular thanks to the changing laws that have allowed easy accessibility and availability.
Even so, most people are still confused about the effects of medical marijuana vs recreational marijuana on the human body.
Generally, the high THC amounts in recreational marijuana provide mind-altering effects that cause feelings of euphoria.
That’s because when consumed, THC stimulates the parts of our brain that respond to pleasure like food and sex.
It achieves this by stimulating our reward system to release dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical messenger that delivers euphoria and feelings of relaxation.
Scientific studies into the effects of medical marijuana on the human body are still ongoing. And the results gathered so far point towards its high potential to help with various ailments.
The high CBD amounts interact with the receptors in the ECS while preventing endocannabinoid breakdown. This allows the endocannabinoids to produce more beneficial effects in our bodies.
However, it’s important to note that the effects of medical marijuana may vary from consumer to consumer depending on factors like age, health, method of consumption, the cannabis strain you’re using, and more.
Legality Of Medical Marijuana Vs Recreational Marijuana
One of the major differences between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana is their legalities.
The legal status of medical and recreational marijuana varies dramatically across federal laws, state laws, and country to country.
In most countries and states, recreational use of marijuana is still prohibited.
This means that those consuming it usually have to do it under the radar as heavy fines or jail time awaits those found consuming or in possession of marijuana.
On the other hand, most states and countries recognize the medical benefits of marijuana.
Hence, they have decriminalized its consumption, making it more available and easily accessible to people who wish to use it for medicinal purposes.
Although some states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, many people still find it challenging to obtain it.
In most places, you have to be above 21 years of age and with a valid identification card to buy recreational products for personal use.
Availability Of Medical Marijuana Vs Recreational
This is one of the main differences between medical and recreational marijuana.
Unlike recreational marijuana, where the qualifying factor is your age and a valid ID card, you must have a state-issued medical marijuana card to be serviced in a medical marijuana dispensary.
To get a medical marijuana recommendation, a licensed medical marijuana doctor must diagnose you with a qualifying condition like cancer, seizures, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and more!
Currently, only 18 states have legalized marijuana for recreational users. On the flip side, at least 36 states have legalized it for sale in medical marijuana dispensaries.
The CBD obtained from hemp plants is legal in all 50 states under federal law.
This shows that holders of medical marijuana cards may have broader and more convenient access to marijuana than recreational consumers.
Keep in mind that recreational dispensaries are prohibited from giving medical advice or recommending marijuana to treat any health issues.
In a nutshell, medical marijuana laws have changed, and some have been relaxed in recent years, making the plant more available to those who need it for medical reasons.
Shopping For Recreational Marijuana Vs Recreational Marijuana
There are significant differences between medical and recreational marijuana. These differences account for your shopping experience for either of the products.
For instance, recreational marijuana users can only shop pot at a recreational dispensary.
However, patients of legal age and holders of a valid marijuana card can legally purchase from both recreational and medical dispensaries.
Additionally, medical cannabis patients enjoy numerous benefits, unlike their recreational counterparts.
Besides enjoying reduced prices and taxes on products, a medical marijuana card allows minors to possess and consume marijuana for specific conditions like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and epilepsy.
The Bottom Line
Medical marijuana and recreational marijuana both come from the same plant.
However, the two plants are significantly different in terms of their CBD and THC content and the effects delivered.
Therefore, medical and recreational users must understand these differences to determine which cannabis products best suit their needs.