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What to Look For When Buying a Medical Marijuana Product

If there’s one question you can ask when it comes to choosing a medical marijuana product, it’s this: “Has it been tested for safety and cannabinoid-terpene content?” If the product is making any additional claims, like labelling a product “Sleep” or “Relax”, does the company have the evidence to back it up? The test results will tell you the most about the effect a medical marijuana product has, more than a name or a single review or recommendation.

Here’s some things to look for in a good product.

Legal cannabis (marijuana) product in Denver, Colorado. Cannabis in a pot.
Cannabis is generally best kept away from children, unless they have an MMJ card, a caregiver, and a special need for it! Author: Cannabis Tours. From https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Legal_cannabis_(marijuana)_product_in_Denver,_Colorado.jpg. CC BY-SA 4.0.

 

Is the Medical Marijuana Product Tested for Safety?

When it comes to flower, extract or tincture, has it been tested for pollutants, pesticides, molds and other contaminants you don’t want to ingest? Does the dispensary you go to insist on ensuring all of its products are tested for safety? When it comes to medical marijuana in particular, the safety of a product is of paramount importance, as already sick people are more vulnerable to infections.

Pre-filled,disposable vape pens have had a lot of negative press in recent years, as the more unscrupulous manufacturers use vitamin E acetate. These problems mostly come from black market products or the rare occasion knock-offs manage to make their way into the supply chain, but even legally-made products still need a thorough assessment of their long-term safety. There are some studies suggesting that vaping may increase the chances of contracting COVID-19 in teens and young adults.

Is the Medical Marijuana Product Tested for Cannabinoid and Terpene Content?

If there’s a combination of a high amount of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), THCV (tetrahydrocannabivarin), limonene, pinene and beta-caryophyllene, then the product may have more “up”, energetic effects.

Cannabidiol is often described as relaxing or stress busting, but it is also an indirect antagonist of CB1 receptors, meaning it can have more wakening effects as well. CB1 receptor agonists like THC tend to have sedative effects, so antagonists can have the opposite effect.

Small amounts of CBD can be useful for insomnia for some people (likely via its anti-anxiety properties), but it is THC and CBN (cannabinol) that are more likely to be useful for sleep. Terpenes like linalool, myrcene and humulene are also likely to impart more relaxing & sedative effects.

An equal THC:CBD ratio can have mild psychoactive effects, but many find them tolerable. More THC than CBD, and the product is psychoactive. If there is no CBD at all, then the product is going to be quite psychoactive. More CBD than THC, and the product is not intoxicating.

Has the Product Been Tested By a Third Party Lab?

Most companies will send their products to be tested by an independent, third party lab. This can ensure consistency in a product, and that the labelling is accurate.

Is the Medical Marijuana Product Reasonably Priced?

Higher prices don’t always equal higher quality. In fact, most medical marijuana producers will likely try and keep their prices competitive and affordable. The best manufacturers will likely try and speak with you personally and assess your needs from a scientific and medical perspective, but these are few and far between, and the legal issues surrounding cannabis testing makes proper clinical trials difficult.

Consistency: the Sign of a Good Medical Marijuana Product

If you take the same product several times over the course of several months, and the effects change, then the product is not necessarily consistent. They may change ingredients, or the cannabis flower they are using has changed. Medication of any sort needs to be consistent and reliable, otherwise it is not really medicine. After all, you wouldn’t want a pack of Tylenol containing 100 mg of acetaminophen to contain 125 mg or 75 mg acetaminophen!

Outrageous Medical Claims Aren’t Being Made by the MMJ Product’s Manufacturers

If the product sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We know that cannabis interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), and therefore can help treat inflammation associated with many different conditions. But the plant is complex and contains up to 150 cannabinoids, around 220 terpenes and 20 flavonoids that all interact with each other and impart unique effects. Which combinations work best for different people and conditions still needs to be figured out, and we need to learn more about the short- and long- term positives and negatives.

Can CBD (cannabidiol) or cannabis products expire? Yes, they can!

 

The Method of Ingestion Matters

Is there a best way to consume cannabis? This depends very much on the condition you are trying to treat. Those suffering from arthritis, melanomas or localized pain may want to try topicals, salves, lotions or transdermal patches. Those who need something faster acting (e.g. for the tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease) may need to use a vape or an inhaler. Edibles can be useful for chronic pain, but can take time to take effect (about 1-2 hours) and can be difficult to dose effectively.

Tinctures are quite a versatile method of taking medical cannabis. They do not have the health problems associated with inhaling vapor or smoke into your lungs, take effect & are easier to dose compared to edibles, and can have long-lasting effects. Moreover, it’s more discreet, and can be used by a wide population of people. The main issue with tinctures are consistency and producers who have little quality control.

Anything Else I Need to Know About Buying a Medical Marijuana Product?

One of the reasons why so many people stick to high quality flowers/buds, tinctures, edibles and topicals/salves is because they are versatile, easy to use and less can go wrong with regards to technical faults. They are tried-and-tested forms of ingestion that have been used for many years, and people are more familiar with them compared to vape pens and some types of concentrates. Otherwise, you will likely need to try a few different products, starting low and going slow, and you will eventually find a dose suitable for you!

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Written by
Sarah Locklund
Sarah Locklund - Outreach and Partnership Manager

Sarah is a cannabis professional that has worked in multiple areas of the industry for the past several years. She found her niche when she went to Philadelphia at the beginning of 2018 to work as a community educator and partnership manager for a multi-state dispensary group. Sarah has spent countless hours educating individuals on the medicinal value of cannabis and assisting patients in the process of gaining legal access. Sarah’s goal is to bring accurate cannabis information and useful resources to as many people as possible, and she is thrilled to work with a company that does exactly that.

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