If you’re new to cannabis, or a new medical cannabis patient, you are probably wondering if there’s a difference between the medical and recreational varieties. Cannabis is an extremely versatile plant as is used for both medical and recreational purposes.
Maneuvering the choices and options surrounding cannabis can be overwhelming for anyone starting out. The following article outlines the differences between medical and recreational cannabis, including which type of cannabis may be the best option for you. To understand these two types of cannabis let’s take a closer look at each one individually.
What Is Medical Cannabis?
Although both medical and recreational cannabis come from the same plant, medical cannabis is used to treat and relieve numerous symptoms or conditions, while recreational cannabis is consumed primarily for its euphoric effects.
Since the plant is consumed for medical purposes, you require a medical document signed by a healthcare professional in order to legally purchase and consume medical cannabis. Consulting with a medical professional will also allow you to understand how medical cannabis is best suited to treat your condition.
What Is Recreational Cannabis?
Recreational cannabis is used primarily for enjoyment purposes and the euphoric effects of THC which produces a psychoactive effect in the body.
Anytime you consume cannabis for pleasure rather than for medicinal benefits, you are recreationally using cannabis. Sometimes, recreational users even use cannabis to self-medicate, although it is not recommended.
What Are the Benefits of Using Medical Cannabis?
Cannabis has a long history of being used as a remedy that has the potential to alleviate the symptoms of many medical conditions.
The plant has over 100 cannabinoids (most popular being THC and CBD) that all have a different effect on the body. The human body also produces its own cannabinoids naturally, called endocannabinoids. These compounds are an active part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which helps regulate functions like memory, mood, appetite and sleep.
This is why cannabis can potentially benefit people with medical conditions such as:
If you consider using medical cannabis to treat a medical condition, you should consult your doctor first. You can also read more on the science behind medical cannabis here.
What Are the Benefits of Using Recreational Cannabis?
There are many different reasons why people use recreational cannabis. It could be for relaxation, stress relief, exercise, or socializing. Some people even use it as an alternative to alcohol or cigarettes.
Research done in 2020 examined the impact of federal legalization in Canada. They discovered that 56% of the participants found cannabis is beneficial for their quality of life, while 46% reported that cannabis is beneficial for their mental health.
The Differences Between Recreational and Medical Cannabis
Here are some of the main differences between medicinal and recreational cannabis.
- THC and CBD content
One of the most important differences between recreational and medical cannabis is the THC and CBD content. THC and CBD are the primary cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant.
Recreational cannabis tends to have a higher THC content and a lower CBD content. THC is the chemical compound found in the cannabis genus plant responsible for its psychoactive properties. It interacts with the brain’s cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1 receptor), resulting in the euphoric feelings that most people associate with recreational cannabis use.
Medical cannabis, on the other hand, tends to have higher levels of CBD and lower levels of THC. This is because while THC does have some medical benefits, it can be off-putting for some medical cannabis patients who do not want to feel psychoactive effects in their medication.
CBD is the compound in cannabis that does not have psychoactive effects because it binds to the brain’s CB1 receptor weakly and does not cause euphoria. CBD also has numerous health benefits, since it has anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and antipsychotic properties.
If you want to learn more about the difference between THC and CBD check out our in-depth comparison article on CBD vs THC.
The legality of Cannabis Use
Cannabis has been fully legalized in Canada as of 2018 according to the Cannabis Act. This means that adults who are 18 or 19 years or older (depending on province or territory) can:
- Possess up to 30 grams of dried cannabis, or its equivalent in non-dried form, in public.
- Buy cannabis products from a provincial or territorial licensed retailer.
- Grow up to 4 plants per residence for personal use.
With medical cannabis, users require a medical recommendation and ongoing treatment by a healthcare practitioner to gain access to the plant. Having a medical document provides a little more flexibility to medical cannabis patients when it comes to possession and cultivating the plant.
Patients authorized by their doctor can:
- Possess up to 30-day supply of medical cannabis at any given time.
- Buy directly from a federally licensed provider.
- Register with Health Canada to cultivate their own cannabis plants (up to 10) for medical purposes.
It is important to note that it is illegal to travel outside of Canada with both medical and recreational cannabis, even if you’re travelling to a cannabis-friendly state or country. To learn more about travelling with medical cannabis click here.
You need a license to sell cannabis legally in Canada. Because of this, both medical and recreational cannabis producers have to meet the same standards in terms of facilities, cleanliness, pesticides, and equipment when growing and producing cannabis.
The main difference in terms of quality is that medical cannabis goes through a more stringent and controlled process in production before it is sold to the medical cannabis market than its recreational counterpart.
Licensed producers operate under strict regulations, and their products go through rigorous testing and quality assurance to ensure consistency and accuracy in labelling.
Recreational cannabis is more expensive than medical cannabis. When it was legalized, it became subject to tax payments which increased prices across dispensaries. There’s also an additional cost to your cannabis when you consider all the provincial taxes and delivery or shipping costs.
Medical cannabis on the other hand is less expensive. This is because physician-recommended medical cannabis could be paid for by insurance and since it is treated as medicine your purchases are tax-deductible.
Most licensed cultivators have compassionate pricing programs in place as well and offer discounts to patients meeting certain criteria. However, eligibility requirements differ from company to company.
Medical cannabis prices are also more stable and are less likely to hike in price due to shortages or individual owners will.
It is easier to access recreational cannabis than medical cannabis because you simply need to be over the legal age in your territory or province.
With medical cannabis, however, you need a medical document signed by a healthcare professional that proves that you have an underlying medical condition. You can also only purchase your medical cannabis from an approved licenced cultivator.
Being a medical cannabis patient comes with its perks, as there’s generally a wider selection of products available compared to the recreational market.
The differences between medical and recreational cannabis are not too far apart at all, and really come down to accessibility, price, and quality. It’s crucial that all those who consume cannabis, whether recreationally or medically, use it responsibly.
If you consider using medical cannabis for any purpose, our cannabis educators are here to help answer any of your questions. Call 1-888-797-9374 or email [email protected], and we’ll get back to you shortly.