Key points

  • Whilst illicit, also known as recreational cannabis and medical cannabis, are grown from the same plant, they have different purposes of use, quality, compound ratio, and legalisation status. Illicit cannabis is not produced to the same high standards or following the same legislation as medical cannabis, and therefore, it is a non-comparable product.
  • Recent research has suggested that, in fact, the majority of ‘recreational users’ who we find are ‘self-medicating’ are, in fact, eligible for a prescription. 
  • Recreational cannabis is considered a type B drug in the UK, and thus, it is not legal to purchase or use. Medical cannabis can be purchased with a prescription from a specialist and a diagnosis to confirm the need to medicate with it. 
  • The legislation and quality checks that medical cannabis undergoes are rigorous, meaning that it’s much safer and delivers more medical benefits than products sold on the illicit market. 
  • Medical cannabis is cultivated in a controlled environment and undergoes a lot of testing, unlike products sold on the illicit market. With medical cannabis, you will know the ratio of THC to CBD and, thus, be able to ensure that you have the same experience every time with the medication.
  • Studies prove that medical cannabis can help with many symptoms, including chronic pain, muscle spasms, nausea, and epilepsy. Medical cannabis is a general term for all products with CBD as well as the combination of compounds; CBD + THC, which forms  medical cannabis itself.

Today, more and more people are turning to using cannabis for medical purposes as a safer alternative to many traditional medications. While cannabis is proven to have many benefits, there is a difference in some aspects between medical and recreational cannabis. Even though both of them come from the same plant, they are classified differently. Keep on reading to find out the differences between medical and recreational cannabis.

What is Recreational Cannabis?

Recreational or regular cannabis is used without medical justification for recreational and social purposes. It is the most common illicit substance in the UK, and according to statistics, over 10 million people aged 16 to 64 have tried cannabis at least once in their lifetime. People generally use recreational cannabis for pleasure, as its psychoactive compound, THC, causes the feeling of “high”, which stimulates relaxation and feelings of happiness and sleepiness. 

Arguably, many recreational users enjoying these experiences may, in fact, be ‘self-medicating’, as not every illness and condition is visible. Due to the lack of education around the endocannabinoid system, many people are wrongly misconceptualised as recreational users when they may, in fact, be eligible for a prescription.

If you want to medicate with cannabis, you should seek professional guidance, as you can’t legally self-medicate with recreational cannabis in the UK.

What is Medical Cannabis?

In the UK, medical cannabis has been legalised to be used for treating certain health conditions and relieving symptoms. It can be used for conditions such as anxiety, depression, BPD, MS, chronic pain, endometriosis, menopause, insomnia, epilepsy, eating disorders, IBS, cancer and more. In order to use medical cannabis, patients need a medical diagnosis and to have tried two alternative methods suggested by their GP. 

Medical cannabis is rather a general term for all cannabis-based medical products that can alleviate symptoms of physical and mental conditions. Medical cannabis was legalised back in October of 2018 when the Government released a statement informing the public that specialised Doctors are able “to legally issue prescriptions for cannabis-based medicines when they agree that their patients could benefit from this treatment”. If you’re considering medicating with cannabis in the UK, The Medical Cannabis Clinics can guide you through the whole process.

Medical vs Recreational Cannabis: THC and CBD Levels

The main difference between medical cannabis and recreational cannabis lies in the amount of Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) they contain. Both CBD and THC are active ingredients found in cannabis but used for different purposes. CBD is generally what would be considered as the medical compound, it has no psychoactive effect and has been proven to treat different medical conditions, including inflammation, chronic pain, muscle spasms, and fatigue. However, with a small percentage of the psychoactive compound, THC, it is proven to be a more effective pain relief method. Thus, if you’re considering taking medical cannabis, you won’t necessarily need to consume a substance with a high THC content. 

Recreational cannabis is generally claimed to have higher THC content than CBD. However, these compounds are usually not at the levels the manufacturers claim them to be. Often, rather than following the correct process and flushing the plants for their last few weeks of growth, many illicit growers are under the illusion that skipping this process will provide them with a higher yield. The outcome of this is contaminated cannabis.

While the rules and regulations regarding these substances depend on the country, medical cannabis users are entitled to a wide variety of benefits that recreational cannabis cannot deliver. For instance, both medical and recreational cannabis can contain THC and CBD, but you’re likely to get more medical benefits from a product produced to a medical standard. 

Medical Cannabis Has Better Quality 

Despite the fact that both medical and recreational cannabis is made from the same plant, the difference in quality is very distinct. Cannabis meant for medical use undergoes more controlled cultivation and production processes. Usually, the plant that is later planned to be used for medical purposes is cultivated indoors in a controlled environment, while recreational cannabis can often be mistreated in production and not flushed in its final stages, meaning that the end product can cause alternative effects such as headaches and fatigue.

Medical cannabis manufacturers ensure the safety of the product in terms of being pesticide-free and free of heavy metals. While recreational cannabis can be safe if grown in proper conditions, it is a risk in comparison to fully controlled medical cannabis, which is considered to be purer and of better quality. Medical cannabis in the UK is GMP-certified, which means that you get the highest quality product with a known ratio and potency of THC and CBD.

The regulation and licensing of medical products with cannabis content in the UK is carried out by the Home Office Department of Health and Social Care and the Medicines & Healthcare Regulatory Agency. On the other hand, recreational cannabis is not regulated, and its THC and CBD composition is often unknown.  

Medical And Recreational Cannabis Serve Different Purposes

While recreational cannabis only offers a single benefit of recreational satisfaction, medical cannabis is a more versatile product. Medical cannabis can provide a multitude of different health benefits depending on the condition you’re treating. Medical cannabis comes in different strains, and those with low THC and high CBD levels can be used even by the elderly and children. 

Recreational cannabis, on the other hand, is considered to be illegal in the UK for all age groups. Medical cannabis sellers also have to ensure quality and accuracy in labelling. In terms of accessibility, medical cannabis is more available to users and offers a wider selection of products.  

Medical And Recreational Cannabis Offer Different Shopping Experiences

Another major difference between medical and recreational cannabis is the shopping process. When purchasing medical cannabis, patients need to show their ID as well as a medical cannabis card. Medical cannabis is not stocked just at any pharmacy, but your doctor at the Medical Cannabis Clinics will recommend a medical dispensary close to your home where you can purchase medical cannabis. 

Medical cannabis sellers have to receive certifications by undergoing training and vetting, as well as attending seminars, which is yet another measure aimed at ensuring the safety of this product.

What Conditions Are Treated With Medical Cannabis?

As defined by law, medical cannabis is legal in the UK, but it can only be purchased with a prescription from a specialist doctor. In the UK, only people with certain medical conditions may be privately prescribed medical cannabis. These conditions include the following: 

  • Epilepsy 
  • Cancer – helps with nausea/ vomiting
  • MS – relaxes muscles and spasms 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • IBS
  • Endometriosis 
  • PCOS 
  • Dysmenorrhea
  • BPD
  • Chronic pain
  • Eating Disorders 

& more!

The NHS states that medical cannabis “should only be prescribed when other treatments were not suitable or had not helped.” So patients who have a diagnosis from their GP and have tried at least two methods of treatment suggested are eligible for a prescription of medical cannabis. 

If you want to find out more about medicating with cannabis, The Medical Cannabis Clinics has a team of experts and professionals who will guide you every step of the way. We also have an option of video appointments, so you won’t have to travel to our office to find out all the details and start your treatment.

FAQs

What is the difference between medical and recreational cannabis?

Recreational cannabis is used primarily for social or personal leisure purposes, while medical cannabis is prescribed by certified doctors for medical purposes. The main differences between medical and recreational cannabis are legalisation, potency, shopping experience, quality, and the benefits they deliver.

What is the difference between medical and recreational drugs?

Medications are substances that treat or alleviate the symptoms of certain medical conditions. Recreational substances, meanwhile, are used by people for pleasure to reach the effects intoxicating these substances have on their bodies.

Why is medical cannabis better?

Cannabis meant for medical purposes undergoes more testing, has strict dosage and labelling standards and is grown in a fully controlled environment. Medical cannabis is also ensured to be free of pesticides, heavy metals, and other harmful elements.

What is recreational cannabis?

Recreational cannabis is cannabis used only for personal enjoyment and not for health purposes. It usually contains a higher amount of THC than medical cannabis, which gives people who use it that “high” feeling. On the contrary, medical cannabis is prescribed to alleviate the symptoms of certain medical conditions.

What is the difference between medical cannabis and CBD?

CBD is one of the active components in cannabis that has no psychoactive nature. You can take CBD in the form of oil, capsules, and other forms of supplements or use it as a topical cream. Medical cannabis is cannabis prescribed by specialists to manage certain symptoms of different health conditions.