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  • Writer's pictureGreen Leaf Medical Marijuana Card Doctors

Is Medical Weed Stronger than Regular Weed?

Patients thinking about taking weed for medical use or to alleviate chronic pain may have questions about the potency, effects, and safety of medical cannabis as opposed to recreational cannabis.

Both medical patients and recreational marijuana users report benefits from cannabis for their mental and physical well-being. So, is medical weed stronger than regular weed? Or are the two essentially the same?

Is Medical Cannabis More Potent Than Regular Cannabis?

Medical and recreational marijuana strains are fairly similar in terms of potency. In fact, some of the most popular medical cannabis strains have higher levels of CBD and lower levels of THC to provide therapeutic benefits without the high.

THC and CBD Levels in Medical Marijuana

High-CBD strains are popular in the medical marijuana community for several reasons.

  • The high: THC is the chemical in marijuana that gives you the feeling of being high. Although this is an appealing effect of recreational weed, many patients don't want to feel like they're "on" something. Products that are high in CBD are attractive to medicinal users because they provide the healing elements of cannabis without the intoxicating side effects. Consumers should examine high-CBD products carefully before use because a high CBD content doesn't necessarily equal a low THC content.

  • Anxiety: Recreational use of weed is often associated with feelings of paranoia or anxiety. Products that are high in CBD are said to reduce feelings of anxiety due to CBD’s anxiolytic effects.

  • Sleep: It's thought that the THC content of marijuana helps consumers sleep better, whereas CBD can help with either energy or sleep, depending on the other cannabinoids and terpenes in the strain. If there’s a specific effect you want (sleep or energy), it’s important to choose a medical marijuana product that is known for producing that effect.

Other Differences Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana

There are several other important differences between medical weed and regular weed, including quality assurance, cultivation practices, legal restrictions, and additional perks.

Quality and Consistency of the Product

As a medical-grade product, medical marijuana must go through stringent quality controls to ensure consistent THC and CBD levels. Medical marijuana must also be properly labeled with its contents and is usually subject to testing requirements to ensure that it’s free from pesticides, heavy metals, yeast, and mold.

Grown Under Certain Conditions

Recreational weed is often grown using pesticides and may come with residual chemicals. Medical marijuana is more often grown organically, making it cleaner and safer to ingest.

Legal Age for Purchasing Marijuana

Patients with a medical marijuana card usually need to be 18 to buy marijuana from a dispensary, while recreational users need to be 21 or above to buy marijuana for recreational purposes. Underage patients with a medical marijuana card typically need to have a caregiver purchase their medicine for them.

Benefits that Come with MMJ Patient Status

Recreational weed is legal in some U.S. states alongside medical marijuana. Residents in states where recreational weed is legal still benefit from applying for a medical marijuana card because of the additional perks.

In Arizona, for example, the benefits of a medical marijuana card include an exemption from the 16% excise tax, higher possession limits, and other legal protections. While the exact benefits vary from state to state, there are almost always advantages to having an MMJ card.

Is Medical Marijuana Safer than Recreational Marijuana?

As with all things marijuana-related, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to give a clear “yes” or “no” answer to this question. Possible side effects that some people may experience as a result of taking either medical marijuana or recreational marijuana include:

  • Increased heart rate

  • Dizziness

  • Impaired concentration and memory

  • Sluggishness or slow reaction times

  • Increased appetite

  • Potential for addiction

  • Withdrawal symptoms if you consume cannabis frequently and then suddenly stop consuming cannabis

Having said this, many people swear by the benefits of marijuana and believe that the potential side effects of taking medical weed are outweighed by its advantages. In terms of chemical safety, the organic growing practices and more stringent testing that are typically used with medical marijuana can make it safer than recreational marijuana in some cases (depending on the practices used).

Is Medical Marijuana Available as a Prescription Medicine?

Two cannabinoids have been approved by the FDA as treatments for specific medical conditions:

  • Cannabidiol—in Epidiolex®—is used to treat certain forms of epilepsy.

  • Synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—in Dronabinol and Nabilone—is used to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy.

Other forms of medical marijuana—such as flower, concentrates, and cannabis-infused tinctures and topicals—can be purchased from dispensaries just like recreational cannabis products. However, they can’t be officially “prescribed” because they are not approved by the FDA.

What Forms Does Medical Cannabis Come In?

Medical marijuana comes in a variety of forms, meaning that consumers who want to avoid smoking or dabbing it have other alternatives.

Pill Form

Taking pills or capsules is a discrete way of consuming marijuana. Pills can be THC-only, CBD-only, or a mix of both. They can be purchased in different dosages depending on your needs.

Vape Oil

Vape oil is typically a potent, high-THC marijuana concentrate that’s consumed with vaping tools such as a vape pen.

Cannabis Oil

Cannabis oil can be applied topically or placed under the tongue and held there for around a minute before swallowing.

Dry Flower

Dry flower can be vaporized using a dry-herb vaporizer. Vaping dried flower can be a cost-effective way of consuming medical marijuana. It also provides quick results.


Cannabis-infused edibles can be used for medical purposes as well as recreational purposes. THC/CBD and CBD gummies are especially popular in the medical marijuana community because of their high collagen content.

Choosing a Form of Marijuana to Use

The degree of relief and the potential side effects you might experience will vary based on the type of cannabis you use. The quickest effects occur with the inhalation of cannabis vapor. The slowest onset occurs with cannabis pills.

When choosing cannabis products for medical rather than recreational reasons, prioritize the quality of the ingredients and the suitability of a given formulation for your specific condition.

Legal Status of Medical Marijuana vs Recreational Marijuana

For medical patients who are new to consuming marijuana, one of the most pressing issues will be the legal status of consuming weed for medicinal purposes. It is important to highlight that state laws as well as international laws on medical weed differ from place to place, and consumers should be well aware of the laws in their home state as well as anywhere they travel.

As of April 2023, medical marijuana is legal in 38 states but can’t be transported across state lines. Some states have a limit on the THC content of products but are more lenient towards CBD-based products. In other states, the use of cannabis even for medical reasons is illegal.

While the use of recreational weed is also legal in some states, medical-grade marijuana is always recommended for cancer patients and others with severe and debilitating conditions because of its superior quality and the controlled conditions it’s typically grown in.

What Are the Medical Benefits of the Marijuana Plant?

There are many anecdotal reports as well as scientifically backed claims regarding the benefits of cannabis products for pain relief and other conditions that affect people's quality of life. These benefits have been experienced both by people who consume recreational (or “adult use”) marijuana as well as by people who consume medical marijuana.

Pain Relief

Marijuana can't treat severe post-surgical pain or pain resulting from accidents such as broken bones, but medical users around the world consume marijuana to treat chronic pain from arthritis or other joint pain, muscular pain, nerve pain, and conditions such as fibromyalgia and endometriosis.

Marijuana is popular for pain relief because it's safer and less addictive than opiates, and less likely to cause respiratory arrest. Patients suffering from certain gastrointestinal or kidney problems may also be unable to take prescription painkillers.

For those suffering from severe pain, traditional opiate-based painkillers also have the disadvantage of being highly sedating. Medical-grade marijuana provides a pain relief option that allows the consumer to go about their everyday activities without feeling tired or drowsy—although you should never drive while under the influence of cannabis.

Other Uses of Medical Cannabis

In addition to pain relief, medical marijuana patients purchase medical cannabis to relieve a wide range of symptoms. For example, the list of Arizona qualifying conditions includes things like:

  • Parkinson's Disease

  • Chemotherapy-induced nausea

  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome

  • Glaucoma

  • Crohn's Disease

  • PTSD (especially in veterans)

  • Seizures, such as those typical of epilepsy

Though there is much anecdotal evidence to justify the use of cannabis to treat conditions like these, large-scale clinical studies are often lacking due to legal issues surrounding marijuana use.

How To Get Hold of a Medical Marijuana Card

If your state has a medical marijuana program and you have one of your state’s qualifying conditions, the first step is speaking to an MMJ doctor. The doctor will take you through the benefits as well as the possible risks or side effects of taking medical marijuana products. With your doctor's approval, you can then start the process of applying for a medical marijuana card.

The application process varies from state to state, but most involve signing up for the medical marijuana registry; this is often done online, and requires proof of your doctor's approval to use THC and CBD-derived products for medicinal use. If you are applying with a caregiver, their information will also be required.

What Products Can I Buy With a Medical Marijuana Card?

After applying for an Arizona medical marijuana card online and being approved, AZ residents can purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis in any form in a given two-week period. There is no limit to the THC percentage that medical users can consume in AZ.

In other states, there might be an upper limit on THC levels—even for medical marijuana products, and your purchase and possession limits may be lower or higher than they are in AZ. Each state with an MMJ program also has its own rules regarding the tax savings and legal protections that apply if you have a medical marijuana card.

Where To Get Medical Marijuana

Once you have a medical marijuana card (assuming your state has an MMJ program), you can buy marijuana from medical dispensaries that sell legal cannabis products. Some states allow cardholders to buy products with higher levels of THC or buy a larger quantity of cannabis-based products than recreational customers. Some states also allow patients to grow their own marijuana plants at home, as long as it is for personal use.‌

Some states such as California also allow medical patients to buy products sold at recreational stores; other states like New York don't allow the sale of smokable products. Check the laws in your state to see what you can and can’t do as a medical marijuana patient and in what ways medical cannabis products in your state might differ from recreational products (if applicable).

The Legal Cannabis Market Can Provide Relief for Many Medical Conditions

While it might not be more potent than recreational weed, medical marijuana provides potential health benefits for patients suffering from a wide range of conditions that affect their everyday lives. Medical marijuana is a safer alternative to opioid-based pain relief and can be taken in many different forms.

Patients who wish to consume medical-grade marijuana should always follow the state rules carefully, buy their products from a reputable vendor, and ask for expert medical advice on what type of cannabis might help their condition. Embracing cannabis as part of your treatment can be a life-changing move on the path to a higher quality of life.


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