If considering getting a medical marijuana prescription, it is good to learn about the difference between medical and recreational marijuana. It is now clear cannabis helps with a variety of chronic medical conditions. Still, many people remain apprehensive until they absorb some of the great wealth of evidence showing the benefits of medical marijuana.
Centuries of evidence show how cannabis has helped in a variety of chronic medical conditions in civilizations dating back to the ancient Egyptians. The marijuana plant is comprised of more than 100 chemicals, known as cannabinoids. Medical marijuana references the use of the whole unprocessed plant as the chemicals within it are used to alleviate certain medical symptoms. Each of the 100+ cannabinoids has a different effect on the human body. The two primary chemicals used in the medicinal application of marijuana are:
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psychoactive compound in marijuana (produces the high)
- Cannabidiol (CBD) – does not produce any psychoactive effects. Medical marijuana has a higher CBD content, so the feeling of euphoria associated with recreational marijuana is absent
Use of recreational marijuana does not require medical justification. Recreational marijuana usually has more THC content than medical marijuana; providing users with a “high”.
Medical Marijuana History
Marijuana is produced from the hemp plant. Hemp is often found in products in a store’s health aisle, including products such as hemp oil and hemp seeds. The hemp plant has been used medically for generations in places like China. Records there of its usage dating back more than 4,000 years cite marijuana as a treatment for a variety of conditions, such as absent-mindedness, rheumatism, constipation and gout.
The ancient Greeks used cannabis on their animals. Battle-wounded horses had their wounds treated with cannabis. Ancient Greeks also used cannabis to treat their bodies’ inflammation, ear pain, etc., and they spread use of medical cannabis into Arabic countries.
Ancient Egyptians used marijuana for tumors, which is believed to be the first ever recorded use of cannabis as a cancer medicine. To this day marijuana is seen as a cancer treatment option.
Medical applications of cannabis in North America and the West date back to the mid-1800s resulting from the visit by Irish doctor William Brooke O’Shaughnessy to India in the 1830s where he witnessed the use of medical marijuana. He brought cannabis back to England to be used for treatment of pain, epilepsy, muscle spasms and rheumatism. The newly introduced drug quickly gained in popularity.
Marijuana was listed as a medical drug from 1851 to 1941 in the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and was often prescribed in the late 1800s. In the early 20th century synthetic medicines began to replace it, and the 1937 Marihuana Tax act then made it very difficult to prescribe the drug. As a result, people began to forget about it leading to cannabis being removed from the USP in 1942.
Bottom line, the medical community had long known about the benefits of medical marijuana until its absence during the latter half of the 20th Century. This nearly forgotten knowledge is beginning to experience a revival as society and medical practitioners rediscover its relevant usages in the treatment and management of many illnesses and conditions afflicting the sick today.
Historical Recap of Medical Marijuana in America:
- 1890s – Pot was common in over the counter medicines. Hemp was used in clothes manufacturing
- 1906 – The Pure Food and Drug Act required all cannabis products to be explicitly labeled
- 1930s – Creation of Federal Bureau of Narcotics led to creeping criminalization; 29 states banned marijuana
- 1950s – Mandatory minimum sentences for possession and use of marijuana were federally enacted
- 1960s – Recreational usage becomes common among those with disposable income
- 1970s – Differentiation from other categories of drugs established; many mandatory sentences repealed
- Early 2000s – A dozen states voted to decriminalize medical marijuana use in contrast to still prevailing federal laws, essentially inviting a public assessment of if people should, or should not be charged for its usage and/or for simply having the drug in their possession
- 2012 – Colorado and Washington become first states to expand beyond medical marijuana and legalize recreational cannabis for designated usage
Medical vs. Recreational Marijuana
Medical marijuana usually contains a higher CBD content than recreational marijuana. As such, medical marijuana doesn’t produce the “high” associated with the recreational variety. While there is no difference between the concentrates and flowers of both types, medical marijuana’s potency is typically higher whereas recreational marijuana typically contains a higher THC content than medical. Product demand finds people prefer recreational more for the “high” effect than the drug’s other benefits.
A medical prescription / recommendation is needed for medical marijuana. An approved physician can provide a medical marijuana card if they determine the patient is suffering from a qualifying condition or illness.
Recreational marijuana can be bought by anyone of designated age in states where it is legal to do so — however, a qualifying condition is needed to get a medical marijuana recommendation, and the medical card requires a recurring renewal.
Here in Long Beach, California, medical marijuana cards can be obtained at age 18. Recreational marijuana purchases from a Long Beach dispensary are allowed only from age 21. Medical marijuana can be purchased from a regulated Long Beach dispensary like Modern Buds as well as from a designated medical pot dispensary. (Learn more about our Long Beach Medical and Recreational Cannabis Dispensary)
Cannabinoids THC and CBD interact with specific receptors within the body, activating CB1 receptors within the brain’s nerve endings, nervous system, and brain; along with CB2 receptors found in the immune system. Ingested THC attaches to cannabinoid receptors to activate the endocannabinoid system, which serves to slow reaction times, impair judgment, affect memory. This creates the effect of feeling high, which for some provides pain relief (and enhances appetite). Medical cannabis places its emphasis on the non-psychoactive CBD, which calms the nervous system, in addition to alleviating pain and improving mood, while stimulating less mind-bending effects. When CBD is used on its own it retains its antipsychotic effects and can be used as well in the treatment of mental illnesses.
Conditions that benefit from the use of medical marijuana:
- Appetite loss
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Eating disorders
- Mental health conditions
- Muscle spasms
- Multiple sclerosis
- …Unproven – but widely presumed:
- Marijuana reduces chronic pain, vomiting and nausea as a result of chemotherapy
- Nerve pain relief – related to spinal cord injuries, AIDS and diabetes associated burning pain in the feet and hands
- Multiple sclerosis relief – treatment for symptoms like stiff and tight muscles
- Being studied as an epilepsy and schizophrenia treatment to reduce treatment-resistant epilepsy seizures
Visiting a Licensed Long Beach Medical Dispensary
To the uninitiated it can be a little apprehensive to visit a Long Beach medical cannabis dispensary the first time. At Modern Buds there is a security guard in our entry greeting room. Don’t worry, the security guard is part of how California requires a regulated and licensed dispensary like ours to operate. Our dispensary’s corporate culture makes sure our security guards are just as friendly and responsive to our guests and the rest of our budtender team is.
All purchases and visits are documented, so on an initial visit to our Long Beach dispensary location on Broadway, the handwritten medical recommendation is required; a copy of which will be entered into our POS system. California law requires people to keep a copy of the medical recommendation or card on one’s person when carrying medical pot around town.
The Future of Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana is viewed as one of the biggest medical stories of the moment as it provides hope for those managing chronic pain. The field of medical marijuana research is robust with many expectations of soon learning of even more medical benefits.