Perhaps no other plant in history causes more controversy than the cannabis plant. Human beings started incorporating this plant into their everyday lives in prehistoric times. Though the plant originated in Tibet, its tendency to grow anywhere makes it easy to maintain in many places worldwide.
As with most controversies, much of the misunderstandings surrounding cannabis stems from misinformation and misconceptions. Here’s some basic information.
The cannabis Sativa species produces both hemp and marijuana plants. We distinguish a hemp plant from a marijuana plant according to the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC in the plant. THC represents the cannabinoid that provides the psychoactive properties that supply the stoned or euphoric feeling so many people enjoy.
A hemp plant possesses less than 0.3% THC, while the marijuana plant varies from 0.5% to 30% of the “magical” ingredient. Much of the confusion surrounding cannabis involves its opponents lumping all cannabis into one category as a drug only used by stoners. Hemp does not make you high, and THC and marijuana possess many other attributes besides their recreational uses.
Uses of Hemp and Marijuana
Though hemp and marijuana derive from the same species, they serve different purposes.
- Industrial hemp may have the potential to address many environmental concerns through its transformation into paper products and plastic substitutions.
- Hemp products appear as clothing and linens — more sustainable than the cotton plant, clothing, and linens made from hemp lasts for years.
- Medicinal-grade hemp plants contain many cannabinoids. CBD represents one of the most prevalent of these cannabinoids and continues to gain popularity as a therapeutic ingredient in many products. CBD products should indicate on the label if they are full, broad, or isolate spectrum. Full spectrum products use all parts of the plant whereas broad spectrum removes any trace of THC. CBD isolate products contain only CBD and no other plant material.
- Recreational marijuana is best known for its ability to help us experience a euphoric, “high” feeling.
- Medicinal marijuana continues to gain acceptance as more research emerges. THC and other cannabinoids in the marijuana plant help with many ailments and conditions. Smoking or eating marijuana for pure enjoyment may also produce additional therapeutic benefits.
What kinds of ailments will medical marijuana alleviate?
Medical marijuana relieves pain, inflammation, and stress. The conditions that qualify a patient to receive medical marijuana vary from state to state, but some diseases that most states cover include:
- Autoimmune conditions such as arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia
- Anorexia and other eating disorders
- Nausea and appetite loss resulting from chemotherapy
- Depression and other mental health issues
- Multiple Sclerosis
What Is a Cannabinoid?
To understand why cannabis works as a medicine, we need to define cannabinoid. The chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant that provide healing properties represent what we call “cannabinoids.” A cannabis plant may possess hundreds of cannabinoids, but THC and CBD get the most attention.
How Do Cannabinoids Help Us with Health Problems?
We experience healing from cannabinoids because of the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. All mammals come equipped with an ECS, consisting of a series of small endogenous molecules running throughout the body known as endocannabinoids. The purpose of this remarkable system deals with homeostasis or balance.
But we abuse the ECS with poor lifestyle choices such as eating fatty, sugary foods, using tobacco, overindulging in alcohol, and living a sedentary existence. The ECS also suffers from variables beyond our control, like aging and inherited autoimmune conditions.
The phytocannabinoid system in the cannabis plant corresponds closely to the ECS. When we ingest or apply cannabis to our skin, the cannabinoids stimulate the C1 and C2 receptors at the cellular level and help us get closer to homeostasis. Different cannabinoids reach different areas of the body. Research continues to help us achieve the best results through different strains of marijuana and by using hemp-derived CBD.
What Are the Legal Issues Surrounding Hemp and Marijuana?
Today, all but two states, Idaho and Nebraska, have legislation on the books that makes medical marijuana legal with varying provisions in place. Fifteen states legalized the use of recreational marijuana by adults.
Within the states, the legislation varies surrounding medical marijuana. Each state lists the conditions that a doctor may prescribe medical marijuana for a patient. In most states, to get a medical marijuana ID card that allows you to buy marijuana online or at a dispensary, you must first get a doctor’s diagnosis of an illness listed on your state’s approved list of conditions.
Some states allow medical marijuana users to grow a small amount of marijuana. Since the states all possess different laws and guidelines, you may want to check with your state’s health department to understand what the process entails.
Is getting a medical marijuana card worth it if you live in a state that legalized recreational marijuana?
If you suffer from a condition that medical marijuana may help, going through the steps to get the Medical Marijuana ID card makes sense. You will most likely get a prescription for a strain and dosage that meets your needs. You will also receive the care of a medical professional. You may also save money since medical marijuana does not get taxed like recreational marijuana.
The 2018 Farm Bill says that hemp-based CBD enjoys a legal status at the federal level, and almost every state makes these products readily available. At the federal level, marijuana remains illegal, so the legislative battles continue.
Regardless if you seek to improve the environment, get relief from an illness, or choose an alternative to alcohol, knowing the difference between hemp and marijuana helps bring understanding to the value of cannabis.
1. How do I know if CBD or medical marijuana is right for me?
Check the legal status and provisions for medical marijuana in your state and then discuss your needs with your doctor.
2. Can I help with the federal legalization of marijuana?
Yes, communicate with your federal officials and get involved in advocacy groups like NORMAL. Review candidates’ profiles on cannabis legislation and vote accordingly.