Marijuana: The ABCs (or the CBDs…)

May 18, 2017 by

You can have me read this article to you instead of reading it yourself…

Or you can read it the old-fashioned way below…


This article has been a bit overdue.  Not only has marijuana become a popular political and conversational topic (it is legal in 4 states, after all!), but it is also becoming a popular option for treating many symptoms related to GI conditions.

But there is a lot of confusion surrounding marijuana (or MJ, or pot, or weed, or THC, or cannabis, or…).  So in this article I want to go over the basics of the many terms that are used to describe this herb, and why they each matter (or don’t) for medical use.  If you’re already an old pro and are simply looking for information on how and for what conditions marijuana has been studied, then you may be interested in the second article in this series (right here).

Why So Many Names?!

I actually have no idea (well I have theories, but they probably don’t have any place in this article).  That question just seemed like an appropriate way to start the conversation on what each name refers to!

We’ll start at the top of the alphabet, but we won’t go in alphabetical order.  Hopefully it will quickly become clear why…

Cannabis:

The scientific name for the plant family that marijuana is a part of.  Except in this case, it turns out that marijuana is the only plant in this family!  It contains (naturally, anyways) only one species, and that is…

Cannabis sativa (C. sativa):

This is the official scientific name of the plant that we typically refer to as…

Hemp:

The casual name that we have given to cannabis sativa, and it refers to the entirety of this cane-like plant.  The fibers of this plant can be used to make jewelry or clothing, which is why we use this term for things that we wear, as opposed to…

Marijuana:

The casual name that we have given the female version of the plant, which is prized for leaves and flowers which can be consumed for a variety of reasons.  There are plenty of other names that are used to refer to this aspect of the plant, but in an effort not to turn this into an article on how to pretend to be hip, we won’t mention them here.  Instead, we’ll talk about the chemical that has made this plant so famous, called…

THC (tetrahydrocannabinol):

The psychoactive chemical that produces the high that this drug is known for.  It can produce a mild euphoria, as well as change perception of space and time.  It can obviously do a lot more than that, too, if you have enough of it, such as if you consume…

Hashish:

Produced by collecting and drying the resin inside of the flowering tops of the cannabis plant, making it eight times more potent in producing a high than standard marijuana.  This is much different than taking a bunch of the other main chemical in marijuana…

CBD (cannabidiol):

Another chemical that is highly present in marijuana, except this one does not have any psychoactive properties, so it doesn’t induce a high or any sort of euphoria.  It is, however, considered one of the reasons that marijuana may be useful in treating medical conditions, including seizures.  This chemical has recently become popular in research, replacing…

Dronabinol and Nabilone:

The names of the marijuana-based medications that are already approved as drugs by the FDA.  The drugs are sold under the names of Marinol and Cesamet, and are used specifically to treat nausea.  Many people claim that they don’t work as well as using actual marijuana while still having all of the unwanted side effects, but we’ll look at the information on that later.

OK!

That is the short and sweet breakdown of the (many) names used in reference to marijuana.  It may seem like overkill, but believe it or not you will hear and see these terms pop up all over the place if you are looking into using marijuana to treat some of your symptoms.

What About Legal Marijuana?

Obviously, we are all aware that there are plenty of illegal methods available for getting your hands on marijuana.  But there are many people for whom this is not (or should not) be an option.

The good news for those that are in need of another therapy option is that the legal options are expanding by leaps and bounds.  Medical marijuana is now legal in 29 states (and DC), and recreational marijuana is legal in FOUR states.  A pretty big change from ten years ago!

Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana makes marijuana accessible in a legal way.  However, it’s not as simple as that, as many of you may already be aware.  It requires that you find a doctor that is approved to distribute medical marijuana cards.  You must then have a condition that falls within the scope of ‘medical marijuana’, allowing the doctor to provide you with the necessary card.  Unfortunately, conditions like gastroparesis and IBD are rarely found on this list.

We are all aware that doctors who do nothing other than write medical marijuana cards for every person that comes in their door do exist.  And you could go to one of these practitioners and get the card that you need to provide you with access to legal marijuana.  But these doctors are not the ones that will provide you with guidance on what to take, how to take it, what the risks are, and how to manage all of your treatments together.  They are not interested in making sure that this helps you to feel better, only in collecting the cash that you are paying for your card.

I cannot go into too many details here since each state runs their medical marijuana programs differently.  All I can do is caution you to work with doctors and healthcare practitioners that are interested in and motivated by your health, not your money.

Recreational Marijuana

For those who live on the West coast or in Colorado, it is now easy and ‘appropriate’ to buy and use marijuana.  But it is important to recognize that medical and recreational marijuana are still considered to be two different things.  Medical marijuana still requires an approval by a licensed physician, and is taxed differently than recreational marijuana.  And the two cannot be sold in the same place.

Your situation may dictate which option you choose, but the takeaway here is that access to marijuana (in many forms) is becoming more available.  Research the options in your state, and if you have a doctor that you trust – and I REALLY hope that you do – ask him what your best option might be.

WHATEVER YOU DO: Make sure your doctor and pharmacist know that you are using marijuana for medical purposes.  Marijuana interacts quite a bit with many other medications, and these interactions can be dangerous in certain situations.  It is just one more treatment after all, and should be considered in the same bucket.

Next up…

 

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