Medical vs. Recreational Marijuana - What is the difference?

Bob Chien
Bob Chien July 28, 2019

There are so many different perspectives to consider with this question!  Is it social, economic, personal, or political? Is it about quality, availability, effectiveness?  There are even differences in how it is presented to the end-user, with significant pharmacological variations, and unexpected effects generated by thoughtless legal requirements.   

Even just a couple of years ago, the answers would have been significantly different.  Let’s do a little “comparison shopping” to see where we stand today.

Social Power

Thanks to Charlotte Figi and her family, marijuana was moved to the forefront of the local newscasts.  She was a perfect figure for the spotlight—a young, helpless victim of Dravet’s Syndrome—who suffered from four epileptic seizures per hour from the age of two onwards…

Intensive research by her parents, looking for a solution after all medical channels had been exhausted, brought them to a cannabinoid [can-ab-in-oid] extract from the marijuana plant called CBD or cannabidiol [can-ah-bid-I-all].  One single-use and she didn't have four seizures that hour; she didn’t even have four seizures that day; the fact is that they completely stopped.

Yes, the effects wear off.  The dose must be repeated daily to maintain the result, in the same way, that insulin moderates the lives of diabetics, but it undeniably works.  An outpouring of public sympathy and support gave a massive push towards legalization for medical use.

Economic Power

Illegal sales of marijuana were generating billions of dollars worldwide, and it was all untaxed.  By legalizing it, politicians reasoned, they could tax it and finance items on their agenda. They would require that it be made to specific standards "for public safety" to justify that control and taxation. But it gave them a basis from which to consider removing the illegal status.

Personal Power

Colorado (for example), and like-minded states or countries chose to disagree with the "common wisdom" that marijuana was "bad."  In truth, there was no evidence that marijuana was any more harmful than alcohol or tobacco (much less so, in fact).

Groups opposed to the latter two tried to draw parallels.  But, they were always artificial and strained real common sense when one bothered to read them in detail or perform any individual research.  It took over 80 years and the internet to give people access to sufficient “uncontrolled information” to realize that they had been severely manipulated by social engineers and politicians.

Political Power

In truth, the anti-marijuana sentiment was only imposed in the 1920s and later sustained by Richard Nixon, in his battle against the hippies that wanted the U.S. to get out of the Vietnam War.  

For up to 12,000 years prior, back in 10000 B.C.E., humans have been using marijuana to drive civilization forward.  For more on that story, see our article What you need to know before buying Medical Marijuana.  Colorado gained fame and was held up as an example to all for how to fight political bullying.

So, What is the Real Difference?

Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana has the advantage of being strictly regulated.  In modern terms, this means that you would receive a very high-quality product, free of herbicides, fungal infections, or toxic heavy metals.  While no longer valid, this high level of control led to some early (and in some cases, deliberate) mistakes being made.  

For example, politicians opposed to legalization forced through legislation requiring that any marijuana used for medical purposes had to be smoked and could not be in the form of extracts from the plant which were still illegal.  Babies and children, therefore, had to smoke marijuana in those jurisdictions to treat their epilepsy.  Forcing parents to do this would hopefully dissuade them from using it.

Other mistakes included making synthetic extracts of medically pure THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol [tet-rah-hy-dro-can-ah-bin-ol] to treat specific symptoms.  Sadly, that caused severe psychotic episodes and paranoid reactions because other essential moderating components, such as CBD, weren't present to cancel the harmful psychotic effects.  In this way, legislators hoped to bolster their case that marijuana was dangerous, to prevent legalization.

Recreation Marijuana

Boutique breeders and strain developers often have a profound understanding of how to crossbreed types to generate specific effects.  Some are biochemists, while others are “makers” or artists, creating interpretively.

They may not know specifically about Cannabichromene [can-na-bi-chrome-een] (CBC) that prevents memory loss, relaxes, and acts and a sedative, and analgesic.  They may not know about Cannabigerol [can-na-bigger-all] (CBG) that treats insomnia, is anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-microbial, anti-biotic, and neuroprotective.  They may not know about Cannabinol [can-ab-in-all] (CBN) which helps to achieve sleep, eliminate mild pain, and helps with convulsions or seizure disorders, or its properties to speed healing of broken or damaged bone tissue.

Conversely, they may breed for very powerful “highs” and eliminate moderators like CBD so that this “skunk weed” can cause extreme paranoia and psychosis in even mildly susceptible people.

The Takeaway

Recreational developers can be a big boon to the field, but a bad one can do more harm than good.  Generally speaking, if you find a dispensary with a good reputation, it can save you a lot of work figuring out what is right for you.

On the other hand, Marigen has a very reliable DNA testing technology that uses one of the world’s largest strain databases (over 1,400 varieties!).  Instead of searching and searching for your ideal match, you can fill out a simple questionnaire, order one of our kits, and have reliable results that will tell you precisely which strains will help you achieve each of your goals.

 That sort of knowledge will save you thousands of dollars and years of experimentation.  Wouldn’t it be better to know rather than hope for the best?  It is time to end the guessing game, and let Science work for you!

Why are we doing this? Marigen founding story