Medical vs. Recreational Marijuana

Medical vs. Recreational Marijuana

If you’ve been approved for medical marijuana, you may wonder about the difference between medical and recreational marijuana. With more and more states legalizing the use of both, it’s a good time to learn more about the similarities and differences between medical marijuana vs. recreational marijuana and decide which is right for you.

What is Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana refers to the use of the whole, unprocessed plant or the chemicals within it to alleviate the symptoms of medical conditions. Despite the approval of the state, however, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently recognize or approve the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The marijuana plant contains over 100 chemicals called cannabinoids, which have different effects on the body. The two main chemicals that produce effects with marijuana are:

  • Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive compound that produces euphoria.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD), which is a substance that doesn’t produce any euphoria, but may have therapeutic effects.

Medical marijuana typically contains a higher concentration of CBD, so it doesn’t produce euphoria. 

What is Recreational Marijuana?

Recreational marijuana is marijuana used without medical necessity. In most cases, recreational marijuana has a higher THC content than medical marijuana, since the goal of using marijuana recreationally is to achieve euphoria or a mood-altered state.

What is a Cannabinoid?

Marijuana contains many natural compounds, but cannabinoids are the ones responsible for its effects. THC is for euphoria and CBD is therapeutic, but the relationship between these compounds and how they act within our bodies is complex.

Our brains naturally produce cannabinoids that are similar to those found in marijuana. This is doneoccurs through the endocannabinoid system, which is a system that regulates functions like emotion, appetite, sleep and movement. Cannabinoids interact with these receptors within your nervous system, brain, nerve endings and elsewhere, activating the endocannabinoid system. 

When THC attaches to cannabinoid receptors, it causes a euphoric feeling and may impair judgement, affect memory or slow reaction time. Though ingesting THC isn’t the goal of consuming medical marijuana, there is a correlation between the effects of THC and pain relief or appetite increase. CBD also calms the nervous system, alleviates pain and improves mood.


  • Euphoria: THC causes a high and CBD does not, which is why CBD is appealing for medicinal purposes. It also has fewer side effects than marijuana with THC, though it’s important to remember that marijuana with high concentrations of CBD isn’t necessarily low in THC.
  • Antipsychotic: CBD is capable of producing antipsychotic effects and reduces the euphoric effects of THC, making it a good choice for mood disorders. 
  • Anxiety: On occasion, recreational marijuana may cause paranoia or anxiety. Because CBD can have a calming effect, it can be used to counteract the effects of THC or reduce general anxiety.
  • Sleep: Restful sleep is an effect of recreational marijuana and THC, whereas wakefulness is an effect of medical marijuana and CBD. Some strains of marijuana are specifically indicated for either effect as well, so it’s important to research options.

Differences Between Medical and Recreational Marijuana

Aside from the intent behind use, medical and recreational marijuana have some other differences, such as:

  • Medical marijuana typically contains a higher concentration of CBD. Recreational marijuana typically contains a higher concentration of THC, since it’s used for a euphoric feeling.
  • Medical marijuana requires a recommendation from a physician and a qualifying condition and must be renewed regularly. Recreational marijuana doesn’t require a recommendation, so anyone in a legal recreational state can enter a dispensary and purchase marijuana products, as long as they are of legal age.
  • You must be over the age of 18 to purchase medical marijuana from a dispensary. In some cases, patients under the age of 18 are able to apply for a medical marijuana card, however. You must be 21 to purchase recreational marijuana from a dispensary in states where it is legal, so you must show identification. You may also possess marijuana and grow it if you’re over 21 in a legal recreational marijuana state.
  • Medical marijuana can be obtained from any medical dispensary. Recreational marijuana can be obtained from dispensaries in legal states, but it can also be found elsewhere.

Medical Marijuana Uses

Medical marijuana can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including:

  • Inappetence.
  • Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Crohn’s disease.
  • Arthritis.
  • Fibromyalgia.
  • Migraine.
  • Multiple Sclerosis.
  • Cancer.
  • Cancer treatment side effects.
  • Eating disorders.
  • Mental illness.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Chronic pain.
  • Nausea.

Though further research is needed on the effects of marijuana on different medical conditions, current research has shown that medical marijuana can be useful in treating many of these conditions.

How to Get Approved for Medical Marijuana

In a legal medical marijuana state, you need a qualifying condition and a recommendation from a physician to obtain medical marijuana. Each state has its own list of qualifying conditions. You may also need a medical marijuana card from your state to indicate that you can legally purchase medical marijuana at a dispensary.

With recreational marijuana, you can purchase it from a dispensary or cannabis business in any state where it’s legal, as long as you’re over the age of 21.

Visit Euphoria Wellness

If you were unsure about the differences between medical marijuana vs. recreational marijuana, you have hopefully gained an understanding and know what to look for when you visit a dispensary. Research is making leaps and bounds into the potential applications of medical marijuana, and more states are legalizing the recreational use of marijuana for adults. 

Fortunately, Nevada is one of the states that legalized medical and recreational marijuana. The rules still apply, however, so you must be over the age of 18 with a medical marijuana card to purchase medical products and over the age of 21 to purchase recreational products. If you want to learn more about the different strains to find out which is appropriate for your needs, the helpful staff at Euphoria Wellness is here for you. Stop by our dispensary to speak with us about your needs and goals, or check out our menu to see what we have to offer!