It might be contrary to what politically-driven discussions tell you but marijuana is one of the oldest forms of medication known to man. There is historical evidence that cannabis was used for medicinal purposes thousands of years ago in China and India – and even before that, they were using cannabis seeds and oil. The ancient Greeks used it to treat animals and recorded the painkilling affects that cannabis can produce.
Even today, the uses of marijuana in medicine are prevalent. A recent survey of pain patients found that patients overwhelmingly prefer marijuana over opioids to treat chronic pain.
Factor that into marijuana’s rapidly increasing popularity as a recreational drug and the duality of the plant’s nature becomes clear. Cannabis can not only provide relief to those in need but also function as a safe recreational activity.
In the pursuit of both goals, marijuana strains have grown exceedingly diverse and can accomplish many different affects. And as more and more states are legalizing medical and recreational marijuana there’s never been a better time to ask: What is the difference?
Both THC and CBD have strong medicinal effects
The two main active ingredients in marijuana are no big secret. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the biggest factors in what makes marijuana medical or recreational. Generally speaking, THC is the ingredient that produces phychoactive effects – the high and sense of euphoria that many recreational marijuana users seek. This has led to ever higher proportions of THC in recreational marijuana strains. But experts are also quickly recognizing that THC has a number of useful medical effects as well. THC is used to help people suffering from PTSD and to aid terminal cancer patients by increasing their moods and helping them cope. THC also has the ability to stimulate appetite and treat nausea.
CBD is the ingredient that is most often sought after in medical marijuana. It is a powerful analgesic, capable of reducing or eliminating certain types of pain that other drugs are ineffective at quelling. On the surface, this leads to the most obvious difference between medical marijuana strains and recreational strains. Medical marijuana strains generally won’t get the user nearly as high. There are even some strains that attempt to eliminate the high entirely.
CBD has no psychoactive effect; it’s used to treat pain, insomnia, anxiety and more. Interestingly enough, marijuana strains with high levels of CBD also cancel out the mind-altering affect that THC can have. If you’re looking for that effect for recreational use, you’ll want to steer clear of strains that are high in CBD.
The Self-Medication Theory
For recreational users of marijuana, here’s a question to consider: Why do you recreationally consume marijuana?
Self-Medication Theory is a psychological proposition that people consume alcohol, marijuana, opioids, OTC drugs and more as a method of medicating against undiagnosed conditions. This can also include addictive or destructive behaviors like gambling or risk-taking.
This theory began in the 1970s and a lot of the momentum for this theory hinges on how recreational marijuana users select and consume strains. If you’re using marijuana recreationally, take a look at the types of strains you select. Is there a pattern or certain effect you consciously choose? This might point to a self-medicating pattern to your recreational use. This theory also implies that if recreational users were given a professional evaluation, many of them might be reclassified to use medically.
Even as a hobby, marijuana can be used medically.
Medical marijuana is legally distinct from recreational marijuana
The legalities of marijuana vary depending on recreational or medical use. There are still only eight states that permit its full legalized use, including recreationally. In those states, the age of legal purchase is 21, higher than the legal age for medical users of 18. Recreational purchases are taxed higher than medical purchases and medical users are generally allowed to possess more cannabis.
However, marijuana users of both varieties receive little protection in the workplace. The Drug Free Workplace Act of 1988 puts all government jobs under the national government’s law where marijuana is still illegal. The Supreme Court has also set a precedent where medical users are granted very few rights to use if they test positively on a drug test – which they will since marijuana stays in the system for roughly a month.
Whether you use medicinally or recreationally, all marijuana users can agree that the plant can provide some truly spectacular results. It can help ease chronic pain, safely alter the mind and treat a myriad of medical issues. The truth is that the difference in medical and recreational use is limited only by the ingenuity of those passionate about the plant. And with marijuana now more popular than ever before, that enthusiasm isn’t going anywhere.
Heather Lomax is a contributing writer for Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics of Florida. She regularly produces content for a variety of medical and cannabis blogs.