Cannabis for medical use has been legal in Canada since 2001 and over 300,000 patients across Canada currently rely on medical cannabis to treat a number of conditions that include chronic pain, anxiety, insomnia, and nausea. Even with a significant number of patients turning to medical cannabis, there remains a significant portion of Canadians who could benefit from the therapeutic value of medical cannabis but lack the proper education surrounding what cannabis actually is, the difference between THC and CBD, the available formats, or how to access it medicinally.

 

Over 100 cannabinoids in cannabis have been identified, and THC and CBD are the two most-researched and understood cannabinoids. Medical cannabis may contain either or both of these cannabinoids as they each have their own respective therapeutic benefits. Research shows that THC, the cannabinoid responsible for the euphoric or psychoactive effects of cannabis, may be helpful for patients who seek pain relief, relief from nausea, reduction of spasticity, or improving their appetite. The cannabinoid CBD on the other hand, does not cause the euphoric effects of THC but may be helpful for reducing inflammation, seizures, and anxiety and improving sleep. It is important to note that cannabis impacts everyone differently, so it’s advised to consult with a physician to try different products and dosing to determine which therapy works best. 

 

The human body has its own endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is involved in multiple functions, including inflammation, sleep, pain, memory, digestion, immune function, and neuroprotection. THC and CBD produced by the cannabis plant interact with the receptors of your ECS which could explain why cannabis seems to have an effect on such a wide range of symptoms and conditions. When starting out with medical cannabis, it’s important to look at the THC to CBD ratio and start with a low THC product and slowly adjust depending on your results.

 

Spectrum Therapeutics, the medical division of Canopy Growth, pioneered a system designed to simplify the dialogue around strength and dosage for individuals and their healthcare professionals by applying a colour-coded spectrum to categorize medical cannabis according to THC and CBD levels. Each colour represents a category of products according to their ratio of THC and CBD. Depending on your needs as determined through discussing with your doctor and the time of day, you may wish to take a product containing THC, CBD, or a mixture of both

 

Medical cannabis comes in a variety of formats. The method that most people are familiar with is whole flower cannabis or bud which can be smoked in a joint or vaporizer. Another method of consumption that is more common for medical patients who want to avoid inhalation is cannabis oil. Cannabis oil is a concentrated cannabis resin containing cannabinoids and other active compounds extracted from cannabis flowers, diluted with a food-grade carrier oil for patients to take orally from a syringe. This allows patients to know exactly how much THC and CBD they are taking in each dose. As an alternative, softgels which resemble traditional pill medications, are filled with cannabis resin and offer a convenient and discreet option for medicating.

 

To access medical cannabis, your healthcare professional has to complete a medical document authorizing the use of medical cannabis, and send it to a licenced producer such as Spectrum Therapeutics. Medical cannabis clinics like Bodystream and Apollo offer virtual telemedicine services where you can connect with a healthcare professional to see if medical cannabis is right for you. This is especially helpful right now given physical distancing protocols during the COVID-19 pandemic. Once this medical document has been received by the licensed producer, a patient then completes a registration form and sends by email, mail, or fax before making their first order which can only be done online and is delivered to your door.

 

It’s important to remember that medical cannabis isn’t a one-size-fits-all therapy, so finding an appropriate product with the guidance of your doctor is often a matter of informed trial and error. For more information, visit the Learning section on the Spectrum Therapeutics website to read more about what medical cannabis may be used for, how it interacts with your body, the differences between THC and CBD and additional patient resources.