by Tracy Ansley, Outreach Coordinator for the Texas Coalition for Compassionate Care and Veteran Outreach Contact for the newly formed International Women's Cannabis Coalition

While advocating for medical cannabis, I have often been asked, "Is there really any difference between medical cannabis and recreational cannabis?" The answer in my professional and personal experience is, Yes, there are several big differences. While it is true that almost every strain of cannabis and type of delivery/ingestion can and is used by both those in both communities, I believe Brandon Krensler, Dad of young cancer patient, Brave Mykala, expressed the difference between the two uses best in one of his CannaDad blog entries. "Medical Cannabis is used to treat a physiological or psychological condition. Recreational Cannabis is used to relax or create euphoria. Each reason for use is a valid reason". I completely agree with Brandon's statement and believe that cannabis should be available at grocery stores, in the produce section just like any other herb or vegetable but I am realistic and know there is much education and law reform that will need to happen before that day comes, so I decided to act and become an advocate for those cannabis consumers who though often have the desire are unable to advocate for themselves.

Because of my activism and advocacy, I have learned for myself that the majority of people using this plant for its medical purpose are generally not seeking the drug's psychoactive effects of euphoria, or only do so occasionally. People using it for a medical purpose are trying to modify particular symptoms and generally contrary to what most people assume, often use cannabis and its products that is milder than recreational users. In contrast, recreational users partake of the plant to achieve an altered state of consciousness and perception, and generally use cannabis (or concentrates) that, surprisingly is often stronger and more potent than what is preferred by medical patients.

I have met people in states where medical cannabis is legal as well as from those where it is still illegal,  who only ingest cannabis orally by consuming preparations such as infused oils, tinctures, capsules filled with ground plant matter and/or infused oils, as well as in foods such as candies and/or baked goods made with cannabis infused ingredients. I have even met a few people who eat their medicine raw straight from the plant, most often leaves put into salads and via juicing but I have also come across some who swear by eating the buds as fresh as possible. While it is possible to obtain psychoactive effects from these types of intake, excluding consuming it raw, from my observations, most medical patients consume them in smaller amounts than recreational users do purposely to avoid "getting a buzz or high" thus limiting the psychoactive potential of these delivery methods.

I have also gotten to know people who only use topical cannabis preparations and do not use it in any other form. Topical salves that contain cannabis, as well as, straight or diluted highly concentrated Cannabis Oils/Resins, such as Pheonix Tears have been found by these patients to provide safe, effective relief from arthritis and other inflammatory type pain and aches, muscle spasms, skin conditions such as psoriasis and other similar skin conditions, burns, skin ulcers, and even cancerous lesions.

Smoking and Vaporization is still the most common delivery method of adult patients in states such as Texas where all forms of cannabis are still illegal. Many Texans would prefer to use oral and topical delivery methods but because any form and amount of cannabis extract or concentrate is a felony in the Lone Star State, most aren't willing to risk facing felony charges and thus are condemned by our Legislators and Legal System to use what most medical professionals who have experience with medical cannabis states are the least effective delivery methods. Most patients who are fortunate enough to live in states that have passed Compassionate Medical Cannabis Legislation have the opportunity to use a variety of delivery methods.

Medical users are often more concerned with what chemicals have or haven't been used as fertilizers and pesticides on the plants they will eventually consume than recreational users seem to be, but this is not always the case. I have met many recreational users who are just as concerned with what goes on the plants they consume, even though such chemical exposures may not have the dire medical ramifications that it does for people who already have suppressed or compromised immune systems.  Medical dispensaries in legal states usually have the cannabis they sell tested not only for cannabinoid levels but also for chemical exposure, insects, and other contaminates such as mold, mildew, and fungus all of which can cause problems in those with compromised immune systems. These results are made readily available to patients. 

I have met parents living in legal states and some who don't that are successfully treating their children with medical cannabis and I am meeting more and more parents in Texas who are desperate to have the option of trying medical cannabis preparations made from strains, such as, Charlotte's Web for their children who suffer from seizure disorders, Autism, Cancers, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy and many other childhood illnesses and diseases. They are frustrated that they are encouraged to give their often very young children high, toxic, often possibly fatal doses of synthetic prescription medications without fear of facing losing their child(ren) to CPS and arrest. Yet that is exactly what they face if the metabolites of a virtually non-toxic plant are discovered in their child's blood or urine, even when prescription medications have failed them.  

The absolute largest difference I have found between medical cannabis and recreational cannabis so far..... NOT ONE parent that I have met has asked me how they can work to change laws in their state so that their minor children can have access to Recreational Cannabis. ~