All cannabis starts out the same…as a flowering plant. From there, what determines whether it will be used for medical purposes or recreational use comes down to differences that lie within the plant’s genus and how the marijuana is grown.
One of the main differences between medical and recreational lies in the amount of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol) that the flower (or buds) of the female plant has.
The not-too-surprising fact is that all marijuana has value as a medical treatment. Even though you may be consuming it for recreational purposes, cannabinoids such as CBD can still affect you in the same medically beneficial way as they would for a person taking using cannabis to treat a medical condition.
Though the lines of difference are somewhat blurry, there are some issues that help to give some insights into the difference between medicinal and recreational cannabis.
Perception vs. Reality
Ever since 1937, when marijuana was criminalized, it’s been a largely misunderstood plant. Throughout history cannabis had many uses that were accepted from a medicinal as well as recreational standpoint. It was used not only to soothe, intoxicate, and stimulate, but also to restore, rebuild and remedy the human body and mind.
Modern history, however, drew a line in the sand with its prohibitionist mindset against the use of the plant for its psychoactive tendencies. Now the former reality of the medical benefits of cannabis is steadily surpassing its present-day perception as an illicit and dangerous drug for “getting high”.
There’s a growing awareness of the benefits of medicinal cannabis that support the thousands of years the drug was prized for its therapeutic benefits. That evidence is seen in the 29 states where medicinal cannabis has been approved. There’s still a ways to go, as only 8 states have approved cannabis for recreational use, and there lies the continued difference in the perception of the two uses.
A taxing issue
Existing laws state that there are differences between the medicinal and recreational cannabis. However, the laws that currently exist are fairly arbitrary. You can’t really say that one kind of cannabinoid is more medical than another, when in fact cannabinoids work together as a whole to provide the result(s) they’re designed to give.
Plus, a system that relies on two different taxing structures, where so-called ‘medical’ strains are taxed differently than ‘recreational’ strains, fails to cover the entire picture because not every compound that makes up the strain is studied or taken into account, which makes the true difference subjective.
Cannabis for medical use is typically grown in a controlled environment, where plants can be closely watched for any abnormalities that might be caused by pesticides, feeds, and hormones. The controlled environment also protects the plants from mold, bacteria and pathogens. When the buds and leaves of the plant are cured, the result is medicinal cannabis.
On the flip side, when cannabis for recreational use is grown outdoors organically—where it’s at the mercy of the sun and elements, it’s considered the “best cannabis” according to some people. The irony of this is that if marijuana grown naturally is of higher quality (or potency) than environmentally controlled cannabis, medical cannabis patients could get short changed when it comes to having access to effective treatment for medical conditions and symptoms due to higher costs.
Criss Cross Care
It’s relatively agreed upon that both recreational and medicinal cannabis have the qualities that can help cure afflictions of the mind and body. When it comes to symptoms though, research enters into the picture to support declarations of both recreational and medicinal cannabis’ ability to relieve certain symptoms of medical conditions. What makes the difference in its effects on the mind and body is whether the cannabis is made up of the Sativa or Indica strains, which are subsets of cannabis and produce different sensations and responses.
The strain Sativa, or a hybrid of Sativa can help patients that are terminally ill or dealing with chemo treatments maintain an appetite. When taken moderately, it can also alleviate chronic pain, migraines, anxiety, depression and others.
In Indica strains, the CBD component helps to bring about balance, so that you experience calm, soothing and feel sedated.
Incidentally speaking about differences
You’ll find that the main factors in measuring the differences between medicinal and recreational cannabis are incidental and based more on how each form is grown, assembled, marketed and offered for purchase.
To some extent, all cannabis contains medicinal value and uses. With the hundreds of cannabinoids and terpenoids the plant contains, there’s an application of them that can benefit the health of humans. The THC and CBD in cannabis work together any number of ways to produce the effects that make it medical or recreational.