The Difference Between Medical Marijuana and Recreational Marijuana

Medical Marijuana

The various effects of consuming marijuana are due to the presence of natural chemicals in the plant known as cannabinoids. The marijuana plant has over a hundred cannabinoids. People often refer to using the entire unprocessed plant when they talk about the usage of medical marijuana for alleviating symptoms of given medical conditions. It is pertinent to note that the FDA does not recognize or approve using the unprocessed plant for medicinal purposes.

Each of the 100 cannabinoids contained in the plant have varying effects on the human body. However there are two cannabinoids which are used in varying combinations for medicinal purposes.

THC or Tetrahydrocannabinol

THC is a psychoactive cannabinoid and is responsible for the psychotropic effects that consuming marijuana causes. Higher concentrations result in more potent “highs”.

CBD or Cannabidiol

CBD is the cannabinoid that is more popularly known for its medicinal benefits. Consuming it does not result in any psychotropic effects.

Medical marijuana usually contains a higher concentration of CBD, which is why consuming it doesn’t lead to a person getting “high”.

Recreational Marijuana

Recreational marijuana is essentially, marijuana that is consumed without the intent to alleviate a medical condition. Recreational marijuana frequently contains a higher concentration of THC, compared

to its medical counterpart, as the THC is responsible for the feeling of euphoria upon consumption.

Primary differences between both types

There are several differences that exist between both kinds of marijuana. Some of the primary differences include:

  1. Medical marijuana comprises of a higher CBD concentration, compared to recreational marijuana. So whenever a person consumes medical marijuana, they won’t get the “high” that results from consuming recreational marijuana. There’s no real difference between the main plant and the concentrates, but usually the potency of medical edibles is significantly higher. The THC content in recreational marijuana is significantly higher compared to that in medical marijuana. Recreational use of marijuana is for the purpose of the psychotropic effects it confers.
  2. In order to acquire medical marijuana, a recommendation is necessary. Marijuana of the recreational variety can be purchased by anyone. For medical marijuana, you need to have a medical condition that has been qualified by the state’s medical marijuana program. Every state that has legalized medical marijuana, has created a list of health conditions for which the program permits the consumption of medical marijuana for treatment. The recommendation has to be regularly renewed as well. There is no need for a recommendation for consuming recreational marijuana. You can visit any dispensary that sells marijuana for recreational purposes, and purchase what you need. However, you would need to check your state laws for the minimum age in which recreational use is permitted, and provide documentary proof at the dispensary. Apart from that, there is no need for the recommendation of a medical practitioner, for getting recreational marijuana.
  3. You have to be over 18 years old to be able to buy medical marijuana from any dispensary. However, even if you need to be 18 years of age for purchasing medical marijuana, there are special circumstances in which individuals who are under 18 years of age, can file an application for a medical marijuana card. The legislature that details these circumstances, varies from state to state, so it is important that you do your research for this. In order to be able to buy recreational marijuana, an individual has to be over 21 years old. If you reside in a state where consuming marijuana for recreational purposes is legal, you have to prove your age at the dispensary. In this case, even a driver’s license is accepted as sufficient proof. In states where recreational consumption is legal, you are permitted to possess marijuana and even grow the plant if you are over 21 years of age.
  4. Medical marijuana can be purchased from any state regulated medical marijuana dispensary. If consuming marijuana for recreational purposes is legal in your state, then you can go to any recreational marijuana dispensary for buying it.

What is the difference between CBD and THC?

As mentioned before, medical marijuana usually contains a higher concentration of CBD, compared to THC. This section discusses in detail, the main differences between these two cannabinoids, to provide understanding about why this is so.

Psychotropic Effects

As mentioned before, THC is responsible for the high that you get from consuming marijuana. CBD does not have psychotropic effects. When you’re consuming the drug for its medical properties, you’re doing it to treat a medical condition rather than getting high. This is why marijuana strains that have a higher concentration of CBD are beneficial from a medical point of view. There are far lesser side effects, compared to the effects that marijuana with high THC concentration can cause. However, you should remember that just because the CBD content is higher in medical marijuana, doesn’t mean that there is no THC in medical marijuana at all.

Anti-Psychotic Properties

Not only is CBD non-psychoactive, it has shown to counter the psychotropic effects of THC. Moreover, when CBD is consumed on a standalone basis, it has been shown to retain its anti- psychotic properties and has the potential to treat individuals with mental illnesses.


It has been observed that individuals who consume high amounts of recreational marijuana begin to report feelings of anxiety and paranoia. Studies have revealed that CBD can facilitate in reducing or even eliminating the anxiety that THC causes. Other studies have also shown that CBD can also alleviate general anxiety.


There are several reports of individuals that claim that consuming marijuana enables them to acquire a good night’s sleep. It is postulated that the THC is responsible for creating this effect. It is thought that CBD contains an agent that induces an individual to wakefulness. This has created much interest, as varying combinations of THC and CBD have resulted in varying effects. There are strains of marijuana that are reputed for their ability to induce sleep, while others have the reputation of inducing energy.


CBD can be an appetite suppressant, which will help patients who need the medicinal relief but do not want the “munchies” associated with using medical marijuana. The “munchies” is a well known side effect of THC which increases the appetite of patients making them feel extra hungry.  Patients like those dealing with anorexia, who need to gain weight may choose a medicinal marijuana product with higher THC.