Medical vs. Recreational Cannabis

Medical vs. Recreational Cannabis

If you’ve been approved for medical cannabis, you may wonder about the difference between medical and recreational cannabis. 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 cannabis vs. recreational cannabis and decide which is right for you.

What is Medical Cannabis?

Medical cannabis 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 cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The cannabis plant contains over 100 chemicals called cannabinoids, which have different effects on the body. The two main chemicals that produce effects with cannabis 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 cannabis typically contains a higher concentration of CBD, so it doesn’t produce euphoria. 

What is Recreational Cannabis?

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

What is a Cannabinoid?

Cannabis 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 cannabis. This occurs 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 cannabis, 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 cannabis with THC, though it’s important to remember that cannabis 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 cannabis 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 cannabis and THC, whereas wakefulness is an effect of medical cannabis and CBD. Some strains of cannabis are specifically indicated for either effect as well, so it’s important to research options.

Differences Between Medical and Recreational Cannabis

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

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

Medical Cannabis Uses

Medical cannabis 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 cannabis on different medical conditions, current research has shown that medical cannabis can be useful in treating many of these conditions.

How to Get Approved for Medical Cannabis

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

With recreational cannabis, 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 cannabis vs. recreational cannabis, 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 cannabis, and more states are legalizing the recreational use of cannabis for adults. 

Fortunately, Nevada is one of the states that legalized medical and recreational cannabis. The rules still apply, however, so you must be over the age of 18 with a medical cannabis 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!


This content is not intended as medical advice. The information provided is meant to encourage cannabis education, not replace direct patient-healthcare professional relationships. Always consult your primary care physician or other healthcare provider prior to using cannabis products for treatment of a medical condition.  Any statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products referenced are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Products are only available where the consumption of cannabis is legal.