Updated on September 1, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
We could tell you that some of the earliest archaeological proof of medicinal weed use spans thousands of years. But you probably already know that. More than likely, you also agree because you are currently using medical marijuana to help manage one or more health symptoms.
Some people have been using “the healing herb” their whole lives. And there is probably not much we can tell you about cannabis, cannabinoids, CBD, edibles, and other products. You may have tried them already. So, this article is not for experienced medical or Adult-Use cannabis cardholders. It is for people like my mom who said they “never tried it” and told the truth.
When Your Mom Asked You About Weed
After a recent conversation with my Mom, I realized that people out there had never tried cannabis. The social stigma is real (we even had a President who claimed he did smoke, but never inhaled). Remember that? There always was and still is today a disconnect between the wellness potential of cannabis, and the severe punitive legal repercussions for using a Schedule I drug.
Of course, my Mom was going to tell me that she never tried cannabis. Parents can be weird, even when their children are grown up. She will claim she never did things that I have debunked, based on some yellowing Polaroids. For the most part (and surprisingly having lived through the 1960s and 1970s), Baby Boomers are straight-laced. And many of them (until now) have been staunchly opposed to cannabis use. Even for medicinal purposes.
For most of her life, she enjoyed excellent health. Until she did not. My mother developed an aggressive form of skin cancer over her entire torso, which had to be surgically removed. I think there were more than twenty (20) spots that were excised. And then, she started thinking about her health and what she wanted to do differently. Smoking cessation was high on the list after her skin cancer diagnosis.
Overprescribed Opioids Led to an Involuntary Addiction for Many Baby Boomers With Chronic Pain
My mother came by her opioid addiction earnestly. It was acquired after a ‘knee surgery gone wrong.’ The metal in her knee shifted, and it was excruciating for her to walk or bend. Lifting things was also painful, and that was a problem because she was a general laborer.
She is now seven (7) years clean and past her opioid addiction. And she was suffering some of the health fallout from long-term use of opioid medications for her chronic pain. Side-effects, she was not aware were probable when they were readily prescribed to her.
I realized that they are many people her age that may have never tried cannabis. And the more I spoke to her; I realized she was telling the truth. As a Baby Boomer, she was scared to death to try any illicit recreational drug. And unlike many in her generation, my mom was never a bohemian. She was afraid of the legal consequences if she got caught.
Today, Baby Boomers like my Mom are changing their attitude toward doctor-supervised medical marijuana. Many are using it as a step-down from opioid pain medications, to put addiction and the horrible side-effects of long-term use behind them.
Even though she could be a recreational cannabis user (legal in Ontario, Canada), she likes the idea of medical marijuana for many reasons. First, it is taxed at a lower rate (bonus!), but the most important reason is that she intends to benefit from an experienced marijuana doctor’s ongoing medical supervision.
First Time Medical Cannabis Seniors Find Products and Strains Confusing
I think that many seniors around the world with chronic health conditions are taking the same journey that my mother is—visiting dispensary websites. Getting embarrassed and leaving quickly, fearful that they may get “in trouble.” She even went to the effort to delete her browser cookies. The fear is real.
Nationally, Canada has legalized medical and recreational or Adult-Use marijuana. You can shop for cannabis products at your local licensed dispensary. Or you can browse full flower and smokable strains, concentrates, tinctures, edibles, carts, pre-rolls… you name it on the Provincial governments’ online pot-shop. There is no way she can get in trouble when medical and recreational weed is legit in Canada. And yet, she was paralyzed by fears.
Many websites offer advice for people who already have a baseline knowledge of medical marijuana. Few online resources take prospective medical marijuana patients through the A-Z’s of medicinal cannabis. On that note (and for people like my Mom), let us look at some of the different types and forms of cannabis.
Medical Weed Edibles (Gummies and Lollypops)
Did you know that both CBD (non-psychoactive) and THC edibles are the top-selling cannabis products of 2020? There is nothing easier when you think about it than opening a bag of gummies or sticking a lollypop in your mouth to microdose cannabinoids.
One of the reasons why edibles are so popular is because they are easy to use. But they are also discreet because they rarely have the telltale marijuana smell. You do not have to pull out your impressive art glass bong, or your grinder, papers, or anything else. When you want to elevate your current condition, simply pop an edible into your mouth. And they come in a variety of different CBD: THC ratios and potencies.
Smokable Flower and Pre-Rolls for People Who Cannot Roll a Joint (And Have not Discovered Cones Yet)
The second most popular type of medical cannabis (where it is legally permitted in the United States) is a smokable flower. There are a lot of different varieties and price points when it comes to cannabis buds. You can purchase shake (which is economical) and almost ready to roll. You can also buy whole flowers or buds, which requires a grinder to prepare before you pack a bowl or roll it for smoking.
Smokable flower is available in over 729 cataloged strains. But there are many other hybrid strains and more that are being developed. Vertically licensed medical marijuana grow operations are on a constant quest (pheno-hunt) to protect cannabis strains’ integrity and create new ones with unique profiles and potential wellness benefits for patients.
The only downside to smokable flower is the smell. They do not call it “stinkweed” for nothing. But if you plan to consume your medical cannabis at home (required by law in many jurisdictions), that may not be a concern for you. And the scent of specific marijuana strains can enhance the flavor, thanks to rich terpenes and cannabinoids.
Sublingual Uptake With Tinctures: Not Exciting But Can Be Fast Acting
If you are the type of person that doesn’t want to fuss with a grinder, a bong (which you would have to hide from your grandchildren), and the idea of smoking anything doesn’t appeal, then tinctures may be the right choice for you.
Select strains of cannabis are extracted using carbon monoxide and other methods, to produce cannabis oil. The extraction is then manufactured into an oil (often flavored with natural ingredients) that can be dispensed by a dropper.
Sublingual intake is a method that can deliver rapid relief from pain and inflammation, nausea, and other chronic health symptoms. Depending on your physician’s advice and guidance from the dispensary, you may put 1-2 drops under your tongue. Capillaries under the tongue are close to the surface. That means the tincture drops are rapidly absorbed. Some patients begin to feel effects within 15-20 minutes.
No-Fuss Pre-Filled Weed Vape Carts
If you have ever used a nicotine vape before, you know how easy and clean they are to transport and use. Cannabis can be processed into vape carts (cartridges). Some dispensaries sell disposable vape pens (not so great for the environment), but many people choose to purchase their vape rig. Then all you have to do is buy a strain or two) and attach it to your vape. Press the button, and you are good to go.
A couple of considerations about vape cartridges: do not try to travel to another country with them, or over state lines. If you think that the authorities do not know the difference between a nicotine vape and a marijuana cart, think again. It is a felony offense to transport medical marijuana to another country, or across state lines, even if you are a medical marijuana cardholder.
Cannabis Concentrates (Leveling Up to the Pro League)
Concentrates are made from concentrated cannabis. There are other slang names for concentrates, including shatter, honey, rosin, resin, hash, dabs, crumble wax, budder, or badder. Do not panic! It is all the same stuff. But what is important to remember about concentrates is that they pack a punch. So, if you are interested in trying some medical weed concentrates, start low and slow.
There are a few different ways to consume concentrates. One of the most popular ways is to add it to a cigar or cigarette. Not healthy, but it is common. There are specialty rigs or pipes that are designed for concentrates. They have a small piece (called a nail) where you place a small quantity of the concentrate.
You ignite your pipe under the wax to activate the THC. While it is bubbling on the nail, you inhale through your pipe, filtering the smoke over water to help remove toxins and enhance the flavor.
THC and CBD Infused Topical Creams
Some patients do not want the intoxicating “all over body high” of medical cannabis. Instead, they want to target the cannabinoids in an area where they experience chronic pain. What is great about topicals is that you can rub it exactly where you want relief of inflammation and pain symptoms.
When you are traveling, keep in mind that a THC infused topical cream is still a controlled substance. If you are traveling to another state with legalized medical marijuana, check to see if they have a reciprocal agreement. Leave your products at home (always) to avoid legal problems. But you may be able to purchase products in the legalized state you visit. Contact the medical marijuana authority in that state for more information.
Weed Supplements and Capsules
Some medical marijuana cardholders cannot smoke or inhale vaporized because of respiratory issues. Or it is not their preference to use an inhalable product period. Dispensaries have a solution for patients and medical marijuana cardholders who want to enjoy the benefits of CBD or THC/CBD microdoses every day. It is available in capsules that look just like a standard easy-to-swallow vitamin.
Sativa or Indica? Maybe Both
There are two distinct families of cannabis. They are the same species, but Sativa and Indica cannabis have different properties. And for therapeutics, they can help with other symptoms and patient needs.
A pure Sativa strain is likely to be “uppity.” Sativa weed provides psychoactive effects like energy, happiness, and relaxation and can provide relief from symptoms of low mood, for patients with depression. Sativa is often chosen as a “daytime blend” because most strains do not make you feel groggy. You may feel alert, positive-minded and sometimes super creative.
Indica is often dubbed “in da couch.” Contrary to the experience that medical cannabis patients have of energy and lightheartedness with Sativa strains, do not plan to go anywhere if you are enjoying a potent Indica strain. If it is your first time trying Indica, it is good to start with a lower dose. Some patients with chronic pain that have difficulty with insomnia choose Indica as a “nighttime” weed blend. Typical effects of Indica strains include pain and inflammation relief, appetite stimulation, relief of symptoms of anxiety, and other positive relaxation effects.
If you live in a legalized state and a member of your family asked you about different medical marijuana types, this article may be helpful for you. And if you do have a family member who is looking for a natural alternative to opioid medications? Help them by providing them with the information they need to make an informed choice about alternative therapies.