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What Is The Difference Between Medical And Street Marijuana?

Published: December 19, 2013
Dear TeenHealthFX,
What is the difference between medical marijuana and regular street mary-jane? If they're prescribing medical marijuana to some people in certain areas, do the risks out-weigh the advantages? If not, why are they prescribing an illegal drug to ill people?
Signed: What Is The Difference Between Medical And Street Marijuana?

Dear What Is The Difference Between Medical And Street Marijuana?,


Prescribing marijuana for medicinal use is a practice that is employed in several countries, including the United States. It is most often used for the treatment of things like nausea, nerve pain, unintentional weight loss, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis, to name a few. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the main part of medical marijuana that is effective in treating these types of conditions. Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC is the main active ingredient in all marijuana that causes these effects, and it is this chemical that is isolated in pill forms of medical marijuana, such as dronabinol and nabilone. One of the obvious differences between these pills and street marijuana is that the pills are swallowed and street marijuana is typically smoked.


In the United States, there are several states that recognize the usefulness of medical marijuana, but only seven states allow actual dispensaries. This means that in those seven states, medical marijuana is regulated and dispensed in a controlled environment. This is a major difference from its street counterpart. When marijuana is purchased in a non-controlled environment, there is no regulation for what it contains. In other words, you never really know what you are getting when it is purchased from an unregulated source. The marijuana can contain mold that can make you very sick, and it could also contain other types of drugs mixed into it, which may be undetectable. This could cause undesired effects, as well as problematic interactions with other medications or health conditions that the marijuana may not have caused on its own.


FX would like to address your question “why are they prescribing an illegal drug to ill people,” as this is a very interesting consideration. First of all, it should be noted that doctors cannot prescribe marijuana in states where it is not legal for dispensing. To prescribe in the states that have outlawed the dispensing of medical marijuana would be illegal, but to prescribe medical marijuana in one of the seven states that allows this practice would be considered legal.


Second, in these seven states medical marijuana is legal while the selling of “street” marijuana is not because the medical marijuana is completely controlled and regulated. The amount of marijuana a person is given, the make-up of the marijuana, and the medical necessity of the use of medical marijuana, the appropriateness of the use of medical marijuana when it comes to various medical history and lifestyle factors, are all decisions being made by medical professionals with the best interest of their patients in mind. To prescribe medical marijuana, that doctor obviously believes the benefits will outweigh any potential problems, or he/she wouldn’t prescribe it. On the other hand, there is no control or regulation when it comes to street marijuana – what is in it, where it comes from, and how it gets dispensed. Street marijuana may have been smuggled illegally into the country, there may be violence connected to the smuggling and dispensing of “street” marijuana since it is an illegal drug, there is no knowing what is in “street” marijuana thereby increasing the risk of putting dangerous additives or additional drugs into your system, and there is no way with street marijuana to control how much a person is using.  


Thirdly, it is important to note that marijuana as a medicine, like any other, should only be taken by the person to whom it was prescribed, and only for the purpose for which is was prescribed. A person without high blood pressure shouldn’t take someone else’s blood pressure medicine. A person without ADHD shouldn’t take someone else’s ADHD medication. Even if you had high blood pressure (or ADHD), you should never take blood pressure pills (or medications for ADHD) from someone selling them on the street or offering them up, because there is no guarantee of what could be in that pill, whether that specific kind of medication is appropriate regarding your condition and medical history, and what kind of dosing you would need. If you look at marijuana that way, the same thing goes.

Signed: TeenHealthFX