There’s no doubt that the medical cannabis industry is growing—fast. Its U.S. market size rose from $5,504 million in 2019 to $9,872 million in 2022, with figures expected to reach $11,273 million by 2025. Thanks to increasing knowledge and societal acceptance of cannabis’ therapeutic abilities, more and more people are exploring medical cannabis as a natural alternative to traditional medications.
Medical vs. Recreational Cannabis
You can find both medicinal and recreational cannabis on dispensary shelves across the country, but what exactly is the difference between them? It comes down to policy, potency, and intended use.
Both medical and recreational cannabis products come from the Cannabis sativa plant and contain active compounds known as cannabinoids (e.g., THC, CBD). These cannabinoids act on the body’s endocannabinoid system, a cell-signaling network that regulates sleep, mood, appetite, pain perception, and so much more. When a person consumes cannabis, they can experience a variety of effects related to these functions.
Recreational users primarily desire the euphoric high created by THC, the most abundant and psychoactive cannabinoid. For this reason, most recreational products emphasize THC content over other compounds. Anyone of legal age (generally 21+) can purchase recreational products, but they’re currently only legally accessible in 19 states. Recreational cannabis is also laden with significant excise taxes, making these products quite expensive compared to their medical counterparts.
Medical cannabis patients, on the other hand, consume cannabis very intentionally to relieve specific conditions. While some use THC-rich products, others opt for products with CBD, CBN, and other cannabinoids that offer medical benefits but little to no intoxication. Despite being legal in more states, medical cannabis is also less accessible than recreational because a doctor’s recommendation is required to purchase it. In contrast to the strict age requirements of recreational cannabis, many states allow people of all ages to use medical cannabis if they demonstrate a need.
Medical cannabis is also significantly stronger in order to effectively target symptoms, many of which are chronic. It has antioxidant properties and the ability to reduce nausea, ease mood-related symptoms (e.g., depression), and relieve pain. Here are some of the conditions that can benefit from medical cannabis:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Crohn’s disease
- Chronic pain
Medical cannabis is available in the form of flowers, edibles, tinctures, concentrates, and more.
A Growing Interest in Medical Cannabis
Medical cannabis can help manage a variety of conditions. But although it’s been around for centuries, it’s just now receiving mainstream attention. Let’s dive into some of the top reasons that medical cannabis is becoming more widely used in the U.S. by the day.
A Rise in Mental Stress
The global COVID-19 pandemic and tangential events led to a drastic increase in chronic stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues for many people. In fact, data from cannabis tech company Veriheal revealed mental stress as the main reason people gained interest in using medical cannabis in 2020.
Different cannabinoids are capable of alleviating mental symptoms. CBD has anti-anxiety properties, THC may be helpful for depression, and cannabis is known to relieve stress generally. For people who are hesitant to take traditional medications for mental illness (e.g., antidepressants), cannabis can be a gentler yet effective alternative.
Increased Cases of Chronic Diseases
Chronic diseases have been recently increasing worldwide. This has created a need for more research into these ongoing, often incurable conditions, some of which have pointed to cannabis as a potential treatment for them. For instance, the increase in cancer cases led to clinical trials that showed that cannabis could kill cancer cells. Cannabis also:
- Reduces extreme nausea caused by chemotherapy
- Relieves pain caused by arthritis and migraines
- Manages weight loss in anorexia and wasting syndrome patients
- Prevents seizures in Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes
- Reduces the spasticity that comes with multiple sclerosis
More Legalization and Approval of Cannabis
One of the biggest reasons Americans are bringing medical cannabis into their households is expanded access. Up until the last couple of decades, no one in the U.S. could safely obtain cannabis due to its federally illegal status. As research has begun stomping out the cannabis stigma by educating the masses, 37 states have legalized the plant for medical purposes. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even approved a few cannabis-based medicines.
Additionally, the medical community has begun accepting cannabis as a plausible treatment option for various diseases and symptoms. As a result, patients interested in adding cannabis to their wellness plans have become more comfortable talking to their physicians about it.
How to Get a Medical Cannabis Card
Do you think you’re a candidate for medical cannabis? In order to purchase medical cannabis products, you will need a medical cannabis card from your state. Getting one looks a bit different in each state, but telehealth platforms like Veriheal facilitate the entire process for you online. Visit Veriheal’s website to make an appointment with a licensed medical cannabis doctor and find out if medical cannabis is right for you.
Written by Johnny Steele