Medical Marijuana vs. Recreational Marijuana

Medical Marijuana vs. Recreational Marijuana: What’s the Difference?

For cannabis neophytes, the difference between medical and recreational marijuana can seem a bit arbitrary. Isn’t it all just a plant? It’s not like a doctor can give you an injection of three weeds. What’s the difference between these types of cannabis? How does cannabis help patients at all?

Medical Marijuana

Cannabis is a plant that has been used for religious, cultural, medical, and recreational purposes for thousands of years. This plant’s value lies in a number of chemicals it produces. These chemicals include THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD (Cannabidiol), and a variety of other compounds collectively referred to as cannabinoids.

These chemicals create diverse effects on the body, including psychoactive effects, inflammation relief, nausea relief, appetite stimulation, and more. Cannabis growers have bred countless strains of cannabis designed to emphasize certain compounds more than others and to create different effects.

The main chemical difference between recreational and medical marijuana is which of these compounds is emphasized. While fans of recreational marijuana generally chase the highest amount of THC possible, some of the most popular strains of medical cannabis are very low in THC. Instead, these strains are bred for high CBD content, which promotes pain relief, relaxation and relieves epilepsy that’s otherwise untreatable.

While some medical strains may contain THC, they are used to treat various conditions, such as nausea, pain, anorexia, and more. The psychoactive effects are often enjoyable but are considered secondary to the effects of cannabis that directly treat a medical condition.

Recreational Marijuana

Though popular as an underground drug for many decades, cannabis was legalized in the U.S. just one decade ago, in 2012. Since then, the industry surrounding cannabis cultivation, sales, and accessories, has grown immensely as more states legalize cannabis for medical and recreational use.

In contrast to medical marijuana, recreational marijuana is used purely for enjoyment. As such, recreational strains are incredibly diverse, as they cater to the tastes of each individual. Strains are cultivated and hybridized to produce enjoyable flavors, aromas, aesthetics, and varied psychoactive effects. Some strains may be bred to produce excited mental effects, while others are bred to produce relaxation and body-wide sensations.

What do medical and recreational cannabis have in common?

In spite of the different priorities of medical and recreational cannabis, the two are often consumed the same way. One of the most common ways of consuming cannabis is to use a portable herb vaporizer. For medical users, the herb vape is popular because it allows for quick consumption with almost immediate effects. This facilitates rapid relief of symptoms. For recreational users, the herb vape is popular because it’s easy to use, easy to share, and leaves less odor behind compared to smoking a joint.

Edibles are one of the most popular ways to consume both types of cannabis. The disadvantage to edibles is that they take much longer to take effect—approximately 30 to 90 minutes. This makes it a little more difficult to find a dosage that’s effective without being overpowering. The advantage of edibles is that they are lung-friendly, easy to take, and can be taken at regular intervals for longer-lasting relief.

Many recreational users find that edibles are a more enjoyable experience. This may be due to the way cannabis ingested orally is metabolized slightly differently, leading to slightly different experiences. The main difference is how long edibles last. While cannabis that is smoked may wear off within an hour, edibles can last for several hours. Because of this, it’s often recommended to start with small dosages and slowly adjust them until finding a dose that’s effective.

How do I get it?

Medical cannabis is legal in 37 states, so you must first verify that cannabis is legal in your locale. For medical use, you may need to receive a prescription from a medical provider, which may only be available for specific ailments. After securing a prescription, patients must purchase their cannabis from a state-authorized dispensary. In many cases, these dispensaries are happy to guide patients in selection, how to ingest it, and what they can expect if they have never used cannabis before.

Recreational use is legal in far fewer states. In these states, cannabis is legal for use for adults above the age of 21. Much like medical dispensaries, these dispensaries are happy to guide new patrons in making a selection, recommend strains, and help customers accessorize with pipes, bongs, one hitters, and more. While some states have legalized the recreational use of cannabis, it’s worth noting that using cannabis in these states may not be permissible in public. Just like wrapping a bottle in brown paper, a cigarette one hitter can be a great way to smoke in public while remaining discreet.

Regardless of why you are interested in using cannabis, the two different types are alike more than they are distinct. Both medical and recreational cannabis can be consumed in a variety of ways to achieve a wide variety of effects that make our bodies and minds feel happier, healthier, and more relaxed.


To those who are lackluster with the plant, the distinction between marijuana used for medicinal and recreational purposes may seem irrational. Everything is basically a plant, right? Whatever your reasons for enjoying marijuana, cannabis has a variety of uses, both medically and recreationally. It offers several advantages that enhance our physical and mental health.

4 Facets of Cannabis Infographic  


Medical Marijuana vs. Recreational Marijuana: What’s the Difference?
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