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What is medical marijuana?

Medical marijuana uses the marijuana plant or chemicals in it to treat diseases or conditions. It's basically the same product as recreational marijuana, but it's taken for medical purposes.

The marijuana plant contains more than 100 different chemicals called cannabinoids. Each one has a different effect on the body. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) are the main chemicals used in medicine. THC also produces the "high" people feel when they smoke marijuana or eat foods containing it.

What is medical marijuana used for?

Medical marijuana is used to treat a number of different conditions, including:

Alzheimer's disease, Appetite loss, Cancer, Crohn's disease, Eating disorders such as anorexia, Epilepsy, Glaucoma, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Multiple sclerosis, Muscle spasms, Nausea, Pain, Wasting syndrome (cachexia)

"The greatest amount of evidence for the therapeutic effects of cannabis relate to its ability to reduce chronic pain, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and spasticity [tight or stiff muscles] from MS," Bonn-Miller says.

How does it help?

Cannabinoids -- the active chemicals in medical marijuana -- are similar to chemicals the body makes that are involved in appetite, memory, movement, and pain.

Research suggests cannabinoids might: Reduce anxiety, Reduce inflammation and relieve pain, Control nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy, Kill cancer cells and slow tumor growth, Relax tight muscles in people with MS, Stimulate appetite and improve weight gain in people with cancer and AIDS

 

How do you get medical marijuana?

To get medical marijuana, you need a written recommendation from a licensed doctor in states where that is legal. (Not every doctor is willing to recommend medical marijuana for their patients.) You must have a condition that qualifies for medical marijuana use. Each state has its own list of qualifying conditions. Your state may also require you to get a medical marijuana ID card. Once you have that card, you can buy medical marijuana at a store called a dispensary.

How do you take it?

To take medical marijuana, you can:

Smoke it, Inhale it through a device called a vaporizer that turns it into a mist,

Eat it -- for example, in a brownie or lollipop, Apply it to your skin in a lotion, spray, oil, or cream or Place a few drops of a liquid under your tongue

How you take it is up to you. Each method works differently in your body. "If you smoke or vaporize cannabis, you feel the effects very quickly," Bonn-Miller says. "If you eat it, it takes significantly longer. It can take 1 to 2 hours to experience the effects from edible products."