The global cannabis landscape is something that’s changing all the time. And in different corners of the world, there’s different laws being put in place and different attitudes towards the substance being exhibited. All this varying legislation and opinion can understandably leave those new to the scene confused about what it all means, particularly considering the wide array of jargon that’s used without explanation in the numerous news articles being published on the subject daily.
So, we thought we’d address one of the fundamental cannabis basics that many remain confused about when coming across cannabis literature and debate for the first time: the difference between medical and recreational cannabis.
What is medical cannabis?
The term ‘medical cannabis’ is used to reference cannabis-based products that are prescribed by medical practitioners to relieve or help with the management of medical conditions. These medical cannabis products may come in many forms like oils, tinctures, edibles or capsules.
Basically, the defining quality of medical cannabis is that it’s used solely for the treatment of medical conditions, and it’s given with the authorisation of a medical professional, typically as a prescription.
Two cannabis-based products that are fully authorised by NICE and are available for prescription by medical specialists in the UK are Epidyolex and Sativex – which are used to treat patients with severe epilepsy syndromes and spasticity related to multiple sclerosis.
However, more medical cannabis products than this should be possible to prescribe. Medical cannabis in general has been legal in the UK since November 2018 and the advisory body NICE specify that although doctors should take their guidance into account, the choice to prescribe medical cannabis lies within the discretion of individual specialists. So theoretically, GMC-registered specialists within the UK could be prescribing medical cannabis products much more frequently than they currently are.
Doctors operating with The Medical Cannabis Clinics are consistently working to make prescribing medical cannabis in the UK a more commonplace practice, so stigma within the country can be eroded and more patients can get access to medical cannabis care for a wider range of conditions.
What about recreational cannabis?
Recreational cannabis is defined as any cannabis used for non-medical purposes. In many parts of the world, recreational cannabis remains illegal.
Recreational cannabis is also unregulated and this could be a very serious issue in a lot of cases as this may lead to people unwittingly consuming cannabis that has very high levels of THC, as the cannabinoid ratio in recreational cannabis can vary immensely from strain to strain. You never really know what you’re getting with recreational cannabis, whereas with medical cannabis you be be sure of the content of what you’re consuming.
Another issue with recreational cannabis is that, in some cases, harmful pesticides may have been used when cultivating the plant, which could lead to you inadvertently consuming toxic chemicals when smoking. With medical cannabis though, if traces of pesticides are detected in the cannabis being used, this will most likely lead to a health and safety recall.
Many are under the impression that recreational cannabis may be legalised in many areas across Europe in the coming years. While Portugal acted ahead of the curve by decriminalising cannabis along with other drugs back in 2001, other European nations like Germany, Croatia, Greece, Switzerland and Spain now seem to gradually be making steps towards decriminalising recreational cannabis too, as the punishments in place for possession appear to be changing from more severe penalties to lesser punishments like rehabilitation treatments or fines.
We only recommend taking cannabis-based products following a consultation with a medical professional, and do not advise patients on the recreational use of any cannabis-based products.
At The Medical Cannabis Clinics, our GMC registered specialists will identify the appropriate cannabis medicine care plan and products for patients following a comprehensive assessment which includes an in-depth evaluation of the main symptoms being targeted, current medications, pattern of symptoms and lifestyle factors such as safety-sensitive occupations.
They will also monitor and adjust the medication on a regular basis to ensure the best effect with the fewest side effects. There is also a carefully designed process in place to monitor patients’ well-being, with follow-up appointments after a week and then every month, for three months after receiving a prescription.
To register for treatment with our specialists click here.