Is There a Difference Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana?

Tina Magrabi
Tina Magrabi - Content Writer

Jul 21 2021 - 3 min read

One of the most intriguing aspects of marijuana is its vast range of effects. There aren’t many substances that can make you feel alternately energetic (sativas), and sleepy (indicas). There are even indica-sativa hybrid strains of marijuana that can make you feel euphoric initially, then relaxed later.

Distinguishing Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana

One could argue that all marijuana is medical. Indeed, there is significant evidence for a broad range of medicinal uses, from reducing depression to treating epileptic seizures. Allowing people to grow their own marijuana is effectively empowering people to grow their own medicine, without the need for prescription medications or other potentially harmful substances.

The difference between “recreational” and “medical” marijuana is not necessarily in the marijuana itself.

Rather, we can distinguish between medical and recreational marijuana in the following ways:

  • Taxes, licensing and legal matters, which tend to be much more imposing for “recreational” marijuana
  • The main market that cannabis cultivators target
  • How breeders market their seeds

Other factors, such as CBD to THC ratio, may also help distinguish between recreational and medical marijuana.

The Importance of Balancing CBD and THC

Some might argue that cannabidiol (CBD) is the logical place to turn for medicinal purposes. After all, CBD is the cannabinoid most often associated with medical usage, as it has no psychoactive effect (and may even serve as an antipsychotic). CBD may also provide many naturally occurring anti-anxiety and therapeutic properties. On the other end of the spectrum, THC is the compound that “gets you high” and appears on the surface to be geared towards recreational usage.

Download Free Guide to CBD

However, THC, CBD and other cannabinoids and terpenes all work together. This synthesis makes the compounds more effective and creates the beneficial “Entourage Effect“. CBD and THC ratios should be well-balanced for maximum efficacy. Therefore, proper dosing under the care of a qualified cannabis physician is crucial.

The following table illustrates the potential uses of various types of cannabis. For more detailed information, consult our comprehensive list of conditions for which medical marijuana may be useful.

medical versus recreational cannabis

The table above offers an overview rather than an in-depth guide. There are sativas that have indica-like effects (i.e., they are high in both THC and CBD). Likewise, there are some strains that have an indica-like structure but produce sativa-like effects.

Sativa vs Indica Dominance

Since many strains are hybrids,  the phenotypes produced can include indica-dominant, sativa-dominant or a combination. For example, growing Mango Haze (50% Haze, 25% Skunk, 25% Northern Lights), you will likely yield a majority of sativa/sativa-dominant plants. Blueberry (80% indica, 20% sativa), meanwhile, will produce mostly indica/indica-dominant phenotypes.

Breeders usually hybridize to preserve certain rare and unusual landrace strains. Hybrid vigor equals an easier to grow plant with possible increased strength and/or yield. Another benefit of hybrids is a wider range of flavors and effects.

Here are some factors that affect sativa vs. indica dominance:

  • Medium and conditions of growth
  • When the plants were harvested
  • Intention of the seed breeder

Viewing indica-dominant strains as medicinal and sativa-dominant strains as recreational is common. But there’s no rulebook, and you can channel both types of strains for diverse purposes according to your preferences.

Choosing the Right Cannabis Strain

The best way to find the cannabis strain that produces your desired effects is by research, experimentation and consultation with a qualified physician. Indeed,  you might select several strains for distinct purposes. Ultimately, you may find that there is no such thing as recreational vs. medical marijuana but that all cannabis strains offer unique features and benefits.

Whether you partake in marijuana for medicinal or recreational reasons, or both, Leafwell is here to assist you. Reach out today if you would like to obtain a medical marijuana card.

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Written by
Tina Magrabi
Tina Magrabi

Tina Magrabi is a writer and editor specializing in holistic health. She has written hundreds of articles for Weedmaps where she spearheaded the Ailments series on cannabis medicine. In addition, she has written extensively for the women's health blog, SafeBirthProject, as well as print publications including Destinations Magazine and Vero's Voice. Tina is a Yale University alumna and certified yoga instructor with a passion for the outdoors.

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