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What is Medicinal Cannabis?

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Medicinal marijuana. We’re sure you’ve heard this term before, especially as medicinal marijuana continues to find itself among governmental ballots, cannabis dispensaries, and everyday conversations. But what does it actually mean?

Medicinal marijuana is just one form of medicinal cannabis, a term used to describe all varieties of the cannabis plant that offer healing properties. However, the term “healing properties” lends itself to further examination, sometimes muddying the waters in the debate surrounding the cannabis plant.

Individuals who suffer from serious ailments take various forms of cannabis medicinally, from smoking marijuana to ingesting CBD oils and other hemp extracts. Individuals suffering from anxiety use cannabis to relieve their stressors and achieve a sense of calm. Furthermore, some individuals with no known health conditions whatsoever take cannabis, especially CBD, as they believe it will better their well-being.

Can these not all be considered “healing properties”?

And that’s just it: medicinal cannabis differs from recreational forms of cannabis simply by the manner in which it’s used. If someone uses recreational marijuana simply for the potent psychoactive effects, they are not using medicinal cannabis. However, if someone uses that same marijuana to relieve anxiety or another health condition, that recreational marijuana could now be considered a form of medicinal cannabis.

Why Use Medicinal Cannabis?

There are many reasons to use medicinal cannabis, especially as more research emerges surrounding cannabis and its potential. One of the most commonly-reported uses is for pain management. Medicinal cannabis users believe that the substance offers them relief from pain or at least a better grasp over their pain.

As far as the research is concerned, more clinical studies are needed. Early reports regarding the efficacy of medicinal cannabis have shown that medicinal cannabis could help in a variety of treatments for certain ailments

There also exist a handful of cannabis-derived medicines, approved for the treatment of conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS), epileptic conditions such as Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet Syndromes, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), HIV-related symptoms, fibromyalgia, endometriosis, interstitial cystitis, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). However, access to these medications depends entirely on which country you live in.

Where is Medicinal Cannabis Legal?

The United States has a long, complicated history with cannabis. And at the federal level, only hemp-derived compounds, such as CBD, are legal for retail sale and consumption. Also, only one cannabis-derived medication is commonly prescribed: Epidiolex, which contains CBD and is prescribed to treat Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet Syndromes, two rare and severe forms of childhood epilepsy.

But what about elsewhere in the world?

Canada stands as the premiere example of cannabis legalization, worldwide. In fact, both medicinal and recreational cannabis are legal in the country. This allows the Canadian government to regulate, tax, and control the cannabis industry within their borders, setting a shining example of what is possible elsewhere in the world.

Canada was the second country to legalize cannabis recreationally, after Uruguay. However, Canada possesses larger means for scientific research, the North American nation leading the charge towards future clinical research into our understanding of the cannabis plant and its many uses. The country is currently funding clinical studies into medicinal marijuana, recreational marijuana, CBD, and a variety of other cannabinoids.

34 U.S. States Have Legalized Medicinal Cannabis

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia (D.C.)
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • West Virginia

72 Countries Have Legalized CBD

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia (medicinal only)
  • Austria
  • Bahamas
  • Belgium
  • Belize
  • Bermuda (medicinal only)
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Denmark (medicinal only)
  • Dominica
  • Estonia
  • Federated States of Micronesia (medicinal only)
  • Finland (medicinal only)
  • France
  • Georgia
  • Germany (medicinal only)
  • Greece
  • Guatemala
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Kuwait
  • Latvia
  • Lebanon
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malaysia
  • Malta
  • Mexico
  • Nepal
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand (medicinal only)
  • North Macedonia (medicinal only)
  • Norway
  • Palau
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • San Marino (medicinal only)
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Africa
  • South Korea
  • Spain (topicals only)
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Ukraine
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
  • Uruguay
  • Vanuatu (medicinal only)

41 Countries Have Legalized Medicinal Cannabis

  • Argentina
  • Bermuda
  • Brazil (only if terminally ill)
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Croatia
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Ecuador
  • Finland (with a license)
  • Georgia (with restrictions)
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Mexico (with limitations)
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand 
  • North Macedonia
  • Norway
  • Peru
  • Philippines (with a permit)
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • San Marino
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • United States (varies by state, federally illegal)
  • Uruguay
  • Vanuatu
  • Zimbabwe

Current Medicinal Cannabis Legislation

In the United States, there are currently a few initiatives that could increase access to medicinal cannabis treatments state-by-state, notably in Alabama, Idaho, Mississippi, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

Worldwide, there are currently three countries pending CBD legalization:

  • Israel, who have already legalized medicinal cannabis and decriminalized recreational forms of cannabis
  • Moldova, who have decriminalized recreational forms of cannabis but maintain that medicinal forms of cannabis are illegal within the country
  • Nigeria, where all medicinal and recreational forms of cannabis are currently illegal
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