Medical and Recreational Cannabis – What’s the Difference?

The complex cannabis plant has been used for a number of various purposes over the years. From clothing and weapons to food and recreation, cannabis has done it all and has shown it’s diversity. However, it is the medical and recreational side of the plant that stands out in modern society - but what is the difference between these two types of cannabis?

medical and recreational cannabis

A Brief Cannabis History 

It is believed that Cannabis Sativa has had a recreational purpose for at least 2 500 years. However, the overall history of the plant goes back quite a lot further. Current estimates believe that cannabis originated over 10 000 years ago in China – where humans first began making use of this plant. 

Origins of the medical application of cannabis is still shrouded in uncertainty. However, it has been mentioned in numerous ancient texts for the plant’s potential to treat numerous health conditions. This includes Epilepsy and ear conditions in ancient Egypt, or menstrual pain,  rheumatism, and gout in ancient China. 

Cannabis Use in the Modern World

It would appear that cannabis is at its peak in terms of recreational consumption, despite the plant experiencing almost global prohibition. There has also been a slow, but extremely meaningful, increase in legalisation of the plant in various capacities. Canada became the first G7 country to legalise the plant in 2018 – with many countries, states and provinces following suit. 

Medical cannabis has also become much more readily available than before, with a number of countries making allowances for medical cannabis. However, access to medical cannabis is still uncertain in many places, such as the UK where potential patients have turned to illegal and recreational cannabis as a substitute – but is there an important difference between medical and recreational cannabis? 

Does Cannabis Flower have Medical Potential?

In countries or areas with a developed medical cannabis structure may offer flower as an option for medicine. Seeing as flower does contain many important cannabinoids, it is seen as a medical option and not just a recreational one. However, this form of cannabis is often consumed by burning and combusting the plant matter, which may be a health concern for those with conditions related to the lungs. 

Other jurisdictions firmly believe that smoking flower has no space in the medical cannabis sphere. Despite this, recent studies associated with the Centre for Medical Cannabis found that 1.4 million people in the UK consume illegal cannabis flower for medicinal purposes. 

Raw cannabis flower does have medical potential, but experts maintain that cannabis from illegal sources can be harmful. Seeing as the illegal cannabis market doesn’t have to adhere to any regulations or standards, harmful additives are sometimes used. These illicit strains are also bred for their high THC levels, which can have negative side effects for some. 

Medical Cannabis Products

Commonly, medical cannabis preparations contain isolated cannabis compounds which have been determined to have the most medical benefit and potential. This is most likely to include the cannabinoids THC and CBD. Numerous medical cannabinoid products are spreading around the globe, such as Epidyolex which can be used for forms of epilepsy, or various CBD brands available locally which help many with anxiety, depression and lack of sleep. 

The difference between medical and recreational cannabis can differ between countries. In some countries, differences may be determined through legal status, which can then affect the reliability of the product, the safety of it, efficacy and so on. Using illegal cannabis also doesn’t necessarily mean that a licensed medical cannabis consumer isn’t immune from the law if found to be using illegal cannabis. Most commonly though, the difference comes from preparation and licensing. 

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