How does medical cannabis work?
The cannabis plant contains more than 100 different chemical compounds called cannabinoids, all with different effects on the body.
The two that you’ll hear mentioned the most are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD):
- THC is psychoactive – it binds with certain receptors in the brain and produces a “high” feeling. However, THC has important therapeutic benefits related to pain relief, helping with sleep, and appetite stimulation.
- CBD is not psychoactive – it does not produce the “high” associated with THC. It is being investigated for multiple benefits, including pain management and anti-inflammatory properties. It is thought that CBD may block some of the psychoactive effects of THC.
Different strains of cannabis will have different levels of the various cannabinoids. Patients who are new to medical cannabis should aim to start with CBD-dominant strains that have low amounts of THC at 1% or less.
Will I have to smoke it?
Definitely not! Medical cannabis is available in many forms. The Ontario Lung Association does not recommend the smoking of any substances.
Instead of smoking, consider using cannabis products that are in oil, gel cap, or tablet forms. The dried flower can also be used with an inhalation device called a vaporizer, though this does still carry some risk to the lungs.
Your healthcare provider will help you select the best form of cannabis for you.
How will I know how much to use?
Your healthcare provider will consider a number of factors when determining your dose and method of consumption. Considerations may include whether you need relief from acute (rapid onset) or sustained (longer term) symptoms.
As per Health Canada, the average authorized amount of dried cannabis for medical purposes is two grams per day, for 180 or 365 days.
What are the most common side effects?
All medicines and treatments have the potential for side effects, and medical cannabis is no exception. The most common side effects of medical cannabis are:
- Dry mouth
- Racing heart
- Eye redness
- Inability to think clearly or concentrate
Consult your healthcare provider at any time if you are concerned.
I have a prescription from my doctor. How do I access medical cannabis?
Medical cannabis should only be purchased from legal channels and sources.
According to Health Canada, if you are authorized by your healthcare provider, you can access cannabis for medical purposes by:
- Placing an order through an authorized online sales platform – we suggest purchasing medical cannabis through education-focused providers like Cannalogue;
- Registering with Health Canada directly to grow a limited amount of cannabis for your own personal use, or designating someone to grow and produce it for you;
- Shopping in person at provincial or territorial authorized retail outlets; or
- Buying directly from a federally licensed seller.