the difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana

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 Bear-McGuinness

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 newsletter

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

The Difference Between Medical And Recreational Weed

Medical vs Recreational: Let’s Define The Difference

Medical and recreational marijuana both come from the cannabis plant; however, what exactly is the difference between medical and recreational weed? Recreational marijuana users use marijuana to enjoy the high feeling, while medical marijuana users use medical marijuana to treat their medical symptoms. In some states, not including Florida, recreational cannabis users usually purchase cannabis from legal dispensaries. However, in the state of Florida, only medical cannabis users recommend by doctors can purchase medical-grade cannabis at a medical marijuana treatment center (MMTC), also known as a medical marijuana dispensary. To be able to buy anything from a medical marijuana dispensary, you must use a medical cannabis card, which can be recommended by a MMJ doctor.

What Is Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana involves using the whole unprocessed cannabis plant or just the chemicals within it to treat the symptoms of medical conditions. The two main chemicals in medical cannabis that are used for medical purposes are THC and CBD. The THC in cannabis has a psychoactive element, while the CBD in cannabis does not. Medical marijuana patients are required to use a medical cannabis card to buy legal medical cannabis.

What Is Recreational Marijuana?

Recreational marijuana is the cannabis that is not used for medical reasons. Therefore, any cannabis that isn’t medical cannabis is recreational cannabis. Recreational cannabis usually has an unregulated high THC content, which produces a psychoactive effect that medical cannabis strictly regulates at many different percentages for each patient.

However, we believe it is important to remember that there is such a thing as recreational therapeutic use of cannabis. The psychoactive effect of THC, and other side effects of marijuana use such as euphoria, can be a tool for dealing with social anxiety, fear, and stress management. It is all about mindset when consuming cannabis.

Medical vs Recreational: Differences Between THC And CBD Levels

The biggest difference between recreational marijuana and medical marijuana is the THC content. High THC can produce psychoactive effects that aren’t ideal for medical marijuana patients. CBD can do wonders for medical conditions such as chronic pain. The difference between medical and recreational weed’s THC and CBD levels allows medical marijuana users to avoid an unnecessary high. Medical marijuana users often want medical marijuana with high levels of CBD to counteract the anxiety and psychoactive effects of high THC levels.

Medical vs Recreational: Legal Issues Of Cannabis

Medical and recreational cannabis have different legal restrictions. Recreational cannabis has many more legal restrictions than medical cannabis. In states where recreational cannabis is usually more accessible, many recreational cannabis users will not find the need to obtain medical marijuana. Instead, these users are okay with settling for higher THC level recreational marijuana. Medical cannabis is legal in 33 states (including Florida), while recreational cannabis is only legal in 27 states. Cannabis that is used for medical purposes is often restricted to certain forms such as cannabis oils or cannabis sprays.

Medical vs Recreational: Variety of Purpose

Recreational cannabis is restricted to certain age groups while medical cannabis can be prescribed to many age groups. Medical cannabis can be used to treat chronic pain, loss of appetite, and many mental health conditions. The biggest difference between medical and recreational cannabis use is mainly centered around the properties of the elements in cannabis. Because THC is mainly used for its psychoactive effects (and recreational marijuana has a high THC content), recreational cannabis is mostly used for that purpose. However, because the CBD in marijuana can treat many medical symptoms, medical cannabis is used for anything from treating pain to increasing appetite.

Medical vs Recreational: The Main Differences Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana

Different States, Different Perks

There are many differences between medical and recreational cannabis. In only recreationally legal states, recreational cannabis can be bought by anyone over a certain age limit. In contrast, in medical cannabis legal states like Florida, medical cannabis users need a medical cannabis recommendation from a medical marijuana doctor.

Recreational cannabis users, outside the state of Florida, need to be over 21 to purchase recreational weed from a marijuana dispensary while medical marijuana users need to be 18 or over to buy medical cannabis from a marijuana dispensary.

Recreational and medical cannabis are gown the same way but cultivated and produced differently. Medical cannabis is grown much more strictly than recreational cannabis.

Discover Your Path