Medical vs. Recreational Marijuana: How They Work Differently on the Body

Florida has the fourth-largest economy in the entire US, and with a booming economy comes an excellent health care system. Their health industry is also among the more progressive, as evidenced by the legalization of medical cannabis in 2016. At present, it is still illegal in 11 other states and allowed in oil form only in six others.

Medical Marijuana in Florida

The vote in favor of the constitutional amendment in 2016 was overwhelming, an indication of the Sunshine State’s general approval of the controversial drug. But in the following year, another law was passed by the then governor banning the smoking of marijuana in any form, leaving patients with a Florida medical marijuana card to rely on cannabis oils, pills, or vapor.

All this changed in 2019 when the new governor of Florida lifted the ban on smoking medical marijuana. What is more, patients were allowed to receive up to two ounces of cannabis flower every month.

With the rapidly changing stance of key figures in the government, the curiosity of many Floridians is stoked. But how does medical marijuana actually work? Read on to find out.

The Conflicting Effects of Medical and Recreational Marijuana on the Body

Among the most known chemicals attributed to the effects of marijuana is the tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. It is mostly responsible for the “high” feeling when smoked inside the body.

Cannabidiol or CBD also figures prominently when talking about marijuana, although to a lesser extent compared to THC. It also has a less controversial reputation owing to its medical benefits and lack of psychoactive effects.

THC and CBD are only two of over one hundred cannabinoids and 450 substances in total that can be extracted from the cannabis plant, and both react differently to the human body. They both, however, interact with the endocannabinoid system or ECS.

The ECS was discovered in the 1990s and was found to be present in all vertebrates, including humans. It regulates the body’s response to changes in the environment by producing natural cannabinoids. Scientists initially thought that its receptors were present only in brain nerves, but learned later that they could be found throughout the body. This discovery was a breakthrough in terms of explaining how marijuana affects the body.

Recreational marijuana comes from a cannabis plant that is high in THC. When it is smoked, the THC enters the ECS and mimics the effects of natural endocannabinoids. In high amounts, it can flood the ECS and take over the cannabinoid receptors throughout the body, stimulating the cells to release a large amount of dopamine and triggering the feeling of elation or “high.”

Medical marijuana, on the other hand, comes from the cannabis hemp plant that is low in THC but high in CBD. This is how a patient with a Florida medical marijuana card benefits from medical cannabis. The CBD reacts with the body differently from THC in that it stimulates the ECS to produce more natural cannabinoids instead of hijacking its receptors. The exact details of this process have not yet been worked out by scientists, though. One prevailing theory is that the CBD binds to a still unknown receptor. But the fact that it helps with chronic pain, nausea, and other symptoms is scientifically proven and not up for debate.

More Research Needed

So much has developed in the field of medical marijuana, and scientists have barely scratched the surface. It is still considered a controlled substance, along with the dangerous drug heroin. As such, few are able to study it extensively. However, there is growing pressure from many sectors to remove it from the list of Schedule 1 drugs. When this happens, the sky’s the limit for all patients with the Florida medical marijuana card.