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  • D. H. Reilly

CBD vs Medical Marijuana: Which is Right for Me?

CBD vs Marijuana

As Alabama’s medical marijuana market is still unestablished, you probably have a lot of questions. Questions like how do I get an Alabama Marijuana Card?

And if you’re new to marijuana, you probably have a lot of questions about the drug itself, and some of related terms that all seem to get used interchangeably: THC, CBD, hemp, cannabis, marijuana, and on and on and on.

The writers at Alabama Marijuana Card are working hard to put together an informational library of all things Alabama and marijuana, to help you find the relief you need.

For now, let’s focus on CBD and Medical Marijuana. CBD is already legal and widely available, so many people might wonder why they would even bother with medical marijuana. The answer to that question lies in THC.

THC is the most abundant chemical substance in marijuana, and CBD the second most. Some of the products you’ll find in your local dispensary when it opens will have one of these ingredients, and most of the products will have some combination of both. Medical marijuana combines both, with different strains having different ratios of the two.

So what can they do for you?

Let’s Start by Defining Our Terms

For the neophyte, all the terminology around cannabis can be confusing, especially because all those terms are related. So let’s start with a vocabulary lesson, keeping it as basic as possible:

  • Cannabis: Refers to any products derived from the plant Cannabis sativa, which contains more than 540 different chemical substances.

  • Marijuana: Although often used interchangeably, marijuana and cannabis are not exactly the same. Marijuana is derived from cannabis, so it is considered a kind of cannabis, but not all products derived from cannabis are marijuana, so they’re not synonyms. It’s a not-all-rectangles-are-squares / but-all-squares- are-rectangles kind of thing. Marijuana is a cannabis plant that is rich in THC.

  • Hemp: Any strain of the Cannabis sativa plant that contains very little THC; it’s the primary source for non-marijuana derived CBD.

To summarize: The cannabis plant has a lot of chemical compounds. Anything derived from the plant can be called cannabis. Cannabis plants that are high in THC are called marijuana, which has a lot of THC. CBD is another compound that is abundant in cannabis, and it is most often sourced from hemp, a low-THC variation of the cannabis plant.

With basic vocabulary out of the way, we’re ready to discuss the differences between medical marijuana and CBD, as well as how they can work together.

CBD’s Path to Legalization

In 2018, Congress removed hemp’s designation as a controlled substance and placed regulation of hemp under the responsibility of the Food and Drug Administration. This action more or less legalized all hemp products with less than .3% THC content, which meant CBD derived from hemp was largely legalized as well.

Limited Research into CBD’s Benefits

But because it was a controlled substance for so long, scientific research of CBD had been limited. We can expect that to change in the wake of the 2018 law. In fact, as of August 2019, the National Institutes of Health databases showed more than 160 current CBD research trials.

At the moment, however, there is only abundant scientific evidence to support one medicinal value of CBD, reduction of seizures caused by certain conditions, and that remains the only medical use for which CBD has FDA approval.

But this lack of scientific research doesn’t mean CBD is unsafe, or that there isn’t scientific evidence of its efficacy, it’s just that this evidence has yet to be widely verified by repeated studies. In fact, according to Harvard Medical School:

  • CBD is commonly recommended as a treatment for anxiety.

  • Studies indicate CBD may help with falling asleep and staying asleep.

  • A study has shown that CBD applied on the skin can decrease pain and inflammation from arthritis.

  • One study found that CBD alleviates inflammatory and neuropathic pain, “two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat.”

Furthermore, the World Health Organization has reported that CBD is generally safe and that research has shown some indications that it can be an effective therapeutic aid for transplant patients, schizophrenia sufferers, and tobacco, opioid, and cocaine addicts.

The bottom line on CBD for now: It has been proven to be effective in the treatment of seizures, it shows promise to be helpful in treating other conditions, and it is safe so long as you talk to your doctor to be sure it doesn’t conflict with other medications you’re on.

As her oncologist told my mom during her fight with cancer when she asked if CBD might stimulate her appetite, “We just don’t know yet how much it can help you, but it certainly won’t hurt you.”

THC: CBD’s Semi-Legal Cousin

Unlike CBD, THC is only “semi-legal.” As the chemical substance in marijuana that gives users a “high,” THC has long been derided and dismissed as without medical value and of interest only to burnouts chasing a buzz, and is perhaps most number one reason for marijuana’s bad reputation.

As a major component of marijuana, THC is only legal where marijuana is legal, meaning for the most part it is only legal to people in medical marijuana states who have marijuana cards.

And so just like CBD, THC has received only limited scientific research so far. Nevertheless, research has indicated that the only real legal source for THC, medical marijuana, is an effective medicine for a wide variety of conditions, and here in Alabama it has been approved as a therapeutic treatment for:

  • Cancer-related weight loss, chronic pain, nausea or vomiting, or cachexia

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

  • Depression

  • Crohn's Disease

  • Epilepsy

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Chronic or intractable pain that has not been effectively treated with opioids or for which opioid therapy is inadvisable

  • Sickle Cell Anemia

  • HIV/AIDS-related nausea or weight loss

  • Panic disorder

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Persistent nausea that has not been alleviated by more common treatments and that is not caused by pregnancy or marijuana use

  • Spasticity related to a spinal cord injury, MS, ALS or some other motor neuron disease

  • A terminal illness

  • Tourette's Syndrome

CBD vs. Medical Marijuana: Which is Right for You?

Of course a question like that can only be answered by an Alabama marijuana doctor, but it’s quite likely that their response is going to be “Why choose?”

Both medical marijuana and CBD have been shown to be safe and effective when used in accordance with doctors’ instructions. More than that, however, they can sometimes be the chocolate and peanut butter of cannabis medicine: they’re great on their own, and can be even better together.

The Entourage Effect

Healthline reports that while both CBD and THC can be effective individually, “some research suggests that taking them together — along with smaller organic compounds in the cannabis plant, known as terpenes or terpenoids — is more effective than taking CBD or THC alone.”

This is because of the Entourage Effect, a theory that suggests that while CBD and THC might be the stars, they work best when they’re surrounded by their “friends” from the cannabis plant.

Again, the research here is in its infancy, but so far there is evidence to suggest that taking CBD and THC along with other natural ingredients in marijuana may reduce unwanted effects of THC some people experience, like anxiety, hunger, and sedation, and it may also offer neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects.

So I Should Use CBD and Medical Marijuana Together?

Maybe you should use CBD and medical marijuana together. What you should definitely do is reserve an appointment with one of our knowledgeable, trained physicians to discuss your condition, your symptoms, and what combination of cannabis-derived treatments might be right for you.

Just as soon as the state’s medical marijuana market is up and running, we’ll set you up with a virtual examination from the comfort of your own home using your computer, tablet, or smartphone. You’ll also save $25 off the cost of the appointment!

Your marijuana doctor will help you find the right treatment for you. Not only that, but by law the staff at your local dispensary have to be highly trained and knowledgeable, so they’ll be able to help steer you towards the best products for you and your doctor’s treatment plan.

We might still have to wait for science to tell us exactly how and what CBD and THC can do, both individually and together, but you don’t have to wait a moment longer to start finding out what so many Americans have already learned and what so many Alabamans will soon learn: Medical marijuana works.


Doctors Who Care. Relief You Can Trust.

At Alabama Marijuana Card, our mission is helping everyone achieve wellness safely and conveniently through increased access to medical marijuana. Our focus on education, inclusion, and acceptance will reduce stigma for our patients by providing equal access to timely information and compassionate care.

If you have any questions, call us at (833) 781-5633, or simply reserve a medical marijuana evaluation to start getting relief you can trust today!

Check out Alabama Marijuana Card’s Blog to keep up to date on the latest medical marijuana news, tips, and information.

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