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Cannabis 101

The Benefits of Cannabis

10.07.22 - 4 min read

As a result of marijuana legalization in several states across the United States over the last few years, the interest in the potential benefits of cannabis is growing more and more. Recreational cannabis is legal in 18 states and medical use of marijuana is legal in one or another way in 36 states. Still, some may ask themselves: what are the benefits of cannabis? 

Luckily, we’re here to help you. Whether its regarding when to use it, how to use it, or whether or not certain cannabis products are legal to purchase and use in your state, we’ve got everything you need to understand the benefits of cannabis. 

Anyone who has been curious about using marijuana but unsure where to start can find value in this guide which offers some background information to make more informed decisions. 

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What is marijuana? 

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds that typically come from one of two plants – Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica. Many people use the words cannabis and marijuana interchangeably, even scientific researchers. However, cannabis can be a much more general term, so it’s helpful to be specific about whether you’re referring to (or reading about) marijuana that contains THC or just the general category of substances that come from the Cannabis family of plants (i.e. Hemp). 

Marijuana refers specifically to: 

  • Products that are made from the dried flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds of the Cannabis plant. 
  • Products that contain substantial amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance that produces what we often call a “high.” 

What does THC stand for? Tetrahydrocannabinol. Here’s what you need to know about it.  

  • Cannabis plants produce compounds called cannabinoids, of which there are 2 most common ones: CBD and THC. 
  • CBD (or cannabidiol) – This is the second most popular cannabinoid. It comes in many forms (edibles, chews, oil, etc.) and it’s legal in 46 states. It is often used for stress and pain management as well as insomnia. [Source] 
  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – THC is the compound that is responsible for the euphoric effects often associated with the recreational use of marijuana. 

To put it more simply, if you’re using a cannabis product that doesn’t provide the recreational effect often associated with marijuana use, it’s probably CBD. If it does produce the effect, it’s most likely THC. 

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Understanding the benefits of marijuana 

The FDA has only approved a few marijuana products for medicinal use, so companies cannot make any claims that their products have medical benefits. However, hundreds of studies have found evidence that people who use marijuana have experienced beneficial effects

Even though medical marijuana is legal in 36 states and recreational use has been legalized in 18 states, it’s difficult for scientists to conduct research on marijuana. The problem is that marijuana is still illegal under federal U.S. law. That makes it very hard to conduct medical research. The federal government has considered some ways to make it easier for researchers to study marijuana since it’s important that we know as much about its effects as possible, but so far its status remains unchanged. 

To date, the FDA has only approved marijuana for the treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy, Dravet syndrome, and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. 

Right now, scientists are researching the use of marijuana in the treatment of a range of conditions as diverse as Alzheimer’s disease to anorexia. The most evidence that it may be helpful is in the treatment of chronic pain, epilepsy, nausea (especially in chemotherapy patients), weight loss associated with HIV, and muscle stiffness in MS patients. 

Just because experts don’t currently have evidence that medical cannabis is useful in treating a condition doesn’t mean people don’t experience some benefits from use. In most cases, more research is needed before scientists reach conclusions. 

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The medical benefit of the marijuana plant in the scientific literature 

While we’re still lacking definitive proof of the health benefits of cannabis use for the following conditions, there is some promising research: 

Appetite loss – Research is strongest in the area of cancer- and HIV/AIDS-related anorexia and marijuana has been shown to be appetite stimulant in these patients. [Source] 

Dermatologic conditions – More high-quality studies are needed, but there is preliminary evidence that topical cannabinoid treatments (including delta-9-THC) may be beneficial for acne vulgaris, allergic contact dermatitis, asteatotic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, hidradenitis suppurativa, Kaposi sarcoma, pruritus, psoriasis, skin cancer, and the cutaneous manifestations of systemic sclerosis. [Source] 

Diabetes – It’s possible that marijuana can impact insulin regulation and the stabilization of blood sugars. Researchers are also exploring the possibility that it can lower blood pressure and improve blood circulation. [Source] 

Glaucoma – This is one of the most frequent reasons for medical marijuana use. Studies have shown that marijuana can help reduce intraocular pressure similar to most glaucoma medications. Nevertheless, the new generation of glaucoma medication is expected to treat the disease directly, which medicinal cannabis products cannot yet offer. [Source] 

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Inflammation – In general, marijuana has been found to have anti-inflammatory effects. There is research on its use in reducing the effects of inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease. This may also have implications for rheumatoid arthritis, Type 2 diabetes, and even skin conditions. However, CBD may be just as effective and have fewer side effects. [Source] 

Irritable bowel syndrome – While there is anecdotal evidence for the use of marijuana for treating IBS, more studies need to be done before scientists reach any definitive conclusions. Researchers do have strong evidence that the human body’s endocannabinoid system (which THC acts upon) plays a significant role in IBS. [Source] 

Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Research has shown that patients suffering from severe IBD can possibly use marijuana to help manage the pain, nausea, and appetite loss. [Source] 

Nausea and vomiting – Primarily used by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, there is promising research on the use of marijuana for those experiencing nausea and suffering the effects of chronic vomiting. However, it has been suggested that it’s unsafe for the fetus when used to try and control nausea during pregnancy. [Source] 

Neurological disorders – Marijuana has been studied as a potential help for different symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, and epilepsy and has shown different levels of promise for each. 

Pain management – There is evidence that marijuana may help manage pain and muscle spasms associated with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and can even reduce a patient’s dependence on prescription drugs that may have more serious side effects. However, it’s important to remember that marijuana has its own side effects. There is also promising research on marijuana’s role in the alleviation of chronic pain in those with spinal cord injuries, cancer, and migraines. [Source] 

Sleep issues – It’s possible that people with chronic pain, PTSD, restless leg syndrome, and MS may find that marijuana helps them fall asleep faster, stay asleep during the night, and enjoy better quality sleep quality overall. There is less evidence for marijuana as a treatment for insomnia in frequent cannabis users, even though many people claim they use it to help them sleep. It’s likely that marijuana helps suppress the brain’s arousal system and increases the sleep-promoting chemical called adenosine. [Source] 

The research on the benefits of the cannabis plant for different symptoms and diseases is still ongoing and more clinical trials may be needed to make any definite conclusions. 

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Understanding cannabis products 

Some people put a lot of emphasis on the type of plant used in marijuana production, but researchers have suggested that these categories are not all that helpful. In fact, knowing the plant name (Sativa vs. Indica, for example) is far less relevant than understanding the chemical profile of the strain you are using. 

In other words, if you are going to buy marijuana, you’ll want to learn the details about the genetic profile of the strain used, not just the name of the plant. Cannabis sativa alone contains over 540 chemical substances, so you need to know the specifics of what you’re using. 

It’s important to keep in mind that there is currently no formal verification system in place to identify Cannabis plants. Don’t worry, specialists at RISE dispensary are always ready to help find the perfect product.  

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Marijuana for medicinal purposes 

If considering the use of marijuana to treat a medical condition, there are some important things to keep in mind. The first step is to talk to your doctor or physician to see what they recommend and what may be beneficial for you in your situation.

After speaking with your doctor or health practitioner may be recommended to find a dispensary that you trust. RISE dispensaries have knowledgeable staff who take the time to describe the origins of the strain and its potential use. Our Patient Care team takes pride in our products and are happy to share their experiences and knowledge with new customers.

It shouldn’t be intimidating to buy marijuana in states where it is legal. However, for those who have never used cannabis of any kind the thought can be daunting. Luckily, there is plenty of information available online about where to buy marijuana. A dispensary employee will be able to answer questions about the effects, genetic makeup and optimal uses of any product available. And while that information may be overwhelming sometimes, you don’t need to memorize anything in order to walk into a dispensary and ask questions. 

As always, new users will want to be more cautious, start slow, and experiment with marijuana in a familiar place. 

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Starting slowly with cannabis

To ease any anxiety about using marijuana for its medical benefits, you may want to explore products that have both CBD and THC in low doses to see how your body reacts. Keeping a journal may help you keep track of what works for you as you experiment with different products

If your state allows the use of cannabis for recreational purposes, you should feel free to be open with your doctor about your marijuana use. In fact, it can be very important to share this information in case it might interfere with any other medications you are taking. As marijuana becomes mainstream people of all ages have begun using it to treat a wide variety of medical conditions. Some people still stereotype marijuana users and people can still feel that there’s a stigma surrounding its use. However, the more people become educated about the medical benefits of all cannabis products the better off everyone will be. 

Once incorrectly called a “gateway drug,” we may find that marijuana is actually paving the way to relief from pain and disease symptoms. 

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