Medical use

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Medical vs. non-medical cannabis – what’s the difference?

In Canada, medical use of cannabis is legal if specific healthcare practitioners provide authorization Understanding the differences between medical and non-medical (recreational) cannabis can still be tricky. We’ve outlined some of the factors that separate medical and non-medical cannabis use below.

Medical vs. non-medical cannabis – what’s the difference?  

We’ve outlined some of the factors that separate medical and non-medical cannabis use below.

Non-medical cannabis is often used recreationally. Medical cannabis is used to treat a specific issue and is directed by qualified medical professionals guiding a patient through a specific treatment plan.

Medical cannabis users may be eligible for insurance coverage, a tax write-off or compassionate pricing for their authorized products.

Medical users have access to buy from licensed producers (LP) through cannabis clinics. LPs often have medical professionals on staff to assist with product selection, including potentially offering a wider array of topicals, oils and tinctures.

Cannabis clinics are typically only available to users who receive a referral from a healthcare practitioner; however, some clinics do allow self-referral. The purpose of professional cannabis clinics is to work with patients who want to use cannabis for a medical reason.

Medical patients are also informed of the risks of inhalation and are often guided to use cannabis products that are not inhaled due to the negative impacts to lung health. Why treat one issue while causing another?

With medical guidance and access to different products, medical cannabis use is much different than the friendly budtender at your local store. They might be very knowledgeable about cannabis, but, at the end of the day, they are not a medical professional.

Getting current and correct information about what cannabis can and can’t help with as a medical treatment is where professional cannabis clinics and LPs come into the picture. 

Think of the difference like this: You can head to a convenience store and easily purchase a pain killer off the shelf when you have a minor ache or pain. But you can also head to a pharmacy and talk to a pharmacist about a specific medication designed to treat your individual condition.

Both give you a type of treatment but the support and education behind the transactions are very different. 

Cannabis is a drug. Like all other drugs, it is not the best treatment route for everyone. Medical staff will review your medical history and condition(s) and ensure you receive the best guidance and products possible as part of your treatment plan.

Unlike your local retail cannabis worker, who is not allowed to talk about health effects, the medical route offers continuous and on-going education for patients and provides an authorization to use products in a medical treatment capacity.

A drug interaction takes place when there’s a reaction between certain substances within the body. This can be related to other drugs, food or beverages.

If you’re looking to use cannabis as a treatment for a medical concern, talk to your healthcare provider about any prescribed medications. Having qualified medical guidance that examines your entire medical situation including prescriptions will help minimize any unwanted drug reactions.

If you’re curious about using cannabis for a diagnosed issue that you and your healthcare provider are currently managing step one is talking to your provider about using medical cannabis as part of your treatment plan. Your healthcare provider knows your medical history and current situation and will be able to answer questions and provide the best direction when it comes to using medical cannabis.

In the world of cannabis and healthcare, self-diagnosing and self-prescribing may do more harm than good. If you haven’t discussed your symptoms or issues with your provider, we recommend engaging with them before using cannabis as treatment. Having qualified medical professionals assessing your condition and assisting with individualized treatment plans is key to your health. Your primary healthcare provider is your best resource for health advice and potential medical treatment options.


Untangling medical and non-medical cannabis - Cannabis Hub

Cannabis Interactions with Medications - Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse (CCSA)

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