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Educational Portal

Medical

Medical cannabis refers to cannabis plant derivatives or dried herb that are approved by Health Canada. Medical cannabis needs a medical prescription from a healthcare provider, and patients purchase their cannabis directly from Licensed Producers. Medical marijuana is used to help treat a wide range of Medical Uses.

Non-Prescribed / Recreational

This type of marijuana is obtained legally through dispensaries focusing on higher THC concentrations for its recreational effects. Street cannabis is illegal and has a high potential for harm due to unknown substances or dangerous solvents that could be used for extraction. There is increased variability with street cannabis.

Phytocannabinoids are cannabinoids that are found in the cannabis plant. There are over 106 cannabinoids but the most studied ones are D9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Other studied cannabinoids include; CBC, CBG, CBN, CBGV, THCV, D8-THC and their respective acid forms.

Hemp is a variety of C. Sativa L. It is defined by Health Canada as a cannabis strains that contain less than 0.3% THC. Both hemp and cannabis come from the cannabis species but hemp is easier to grow and is prized in the industry for a variety of uses. It is not classified as a “drug” because of its low THC content – not enough to get anyone “high” (Health Canada, 2017). Comparatively, cannabis comprises higher levels of cannabinoids and their ratios vary throughout strains.

The cannabis plant is complex; as with other plants, it is hierarchically organized (family, genus, species, subspecies and variety). It is part of the Cannabaceae family, from the Cannabis genus, the sativa species, and it can be either an indica or sativa subspecies. Finally, it can also be one of four varieties (sativa, indica, spontanea and kafiristanica/ruderalis) (McPartland & Guy, 2017).

It is important to note that “Indica” and “Sativa” are different from C. sativa and C. indica. In addition, it is incorrect to associate “Indica” or “Sativa” strains with specific psychoactive effects (McPartland, 2018).

C. indica classically contains more THC than in C. sativa varieties.

Hybrid refers to the mixture (breeding) between C. indica and C. sativa varieties; can be predominantly one or the other.
C. sativa classically contains more CBD than in C. indica varieties.

Aside from cannabinoids, cannabis has other components but two relevant ones, terpenoids and flavonoids. These molecules interact with cannabinoids to enhance or diminish their effects, which is called the entourage effect.

Cannabinoids are a set of components exclusive to the cannabis plant.

  • Most studied cannabinoids: Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD).
  • There are 106 others: Cannabigerol (CBG), Cannabichromene (CBC), Cannabivarin (CBDV), Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV), amongst others.

Terpenoids are a large group of molecules present in all plant species; they give the aroma and the taste. There are over 200 terpenoids in the cannabis plant though they are present in different proportions.
A few examples are:

  • Myrcene
  • Terpenolene
  • Humulene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Limonene
  • Linalool

Flavonoids are another set of components that are present in other plants. They give the pigment to plants and have some therapeutic effects.

A few examples are:

  • Flavonol
  • Isoflavone
  • Flavanone
  • Anthocyanin
  • Flavone

The way cannabis interacts with the human body is through the Endocannabinoid System, which is a complex system that encompasses two main receptors (CB1 and CB2) and two main endogenous ligands (Anandamide and 2-Arachinodoylglycerol). CB1 is mostly located in the nervous system (cranial nerves, peripheral nerves, nerve roots, neuromuscular junction and muscles) and CB2 is primarily found in the immune system. Inherently, we have endocannabinoids (AEA, 2-AG) that act similarly as the phytocannabinoid THC which regulate tissues’ metabolism and other cellular responses. These interactions may have medical therapeutic value

There are many different ways to consume cannabis, although some are medically-associated and others recreationally-associated, this is due to the cannabinoid extraction method. Recreationally-Associated methods might cause detrimental health effects.

Cannabis is derived from the different varieties and strains of the plant and can be consumed in many various forms. We classified the different kinds of cannabis based on the method used to extract cannabinoids and other metabolites. For mixtures using mixed extraction methods, we organized the form based on the predominantly used extraction method.

Temperature

  • Dried Herb: Dried flowers from the female cannabis plant contain up to 30% THC. Can be smoked, vaporized or rolled. Only vaporized cannabis has been medically-associated
  • Dabs: Concentrated doses of cannabis that are smoked on a hot surface such as a nail and then inhaled through a dab ring; this gives you access to a higher concentration of THC.
  • Distillate: Initially the same as BHO but predominantly it is distilled to get rid of the solvent or plant matter. Usually, it is smoked.
  • Resin: Same process as BHO but live resin uses frozen plants.

Pressure

  • Hashish: Made from kief/resin. Ethanol or other solvents might be used; this is then pressed into blocks and referred to as Hash.
  • Hash oil: Made from dried herb and it is mechanically broken down and then heated. A solvent is used to extract the cannabinoids

CO2, Alcohol, & Gases

  • Gel capsules: Contain oil with cannabinoids and other components. They are medically-associated.
  • Butane Hash Oil (BHO): Oils and cannabinoids from trichomes on dried cannabis that contains a solvent. The cannabis plant is pressurized with butane and then heated.
  • Concentrate: Concentrates include any oil that concentrates the chemical compounds of the cannabis plant. Different extraction processes and solvents are used with butane being the most common.
  • Shatter: A type of concentrate varying in levels of transparency and colour. When warm, it resembles the texture of honey, but when cold, it is brittle like glass — made from BHO.
  • Tincture: Decarboxylated cannabis is mixed with a solvent. Cannabis extracts are mixed with either alcohol or glycerin. Can be orally used or smoked.
  • Oromucosal spray: contains different percentages of cannabinoids, for oral use and it is made with a decarboxylated cannabis plant. The process is the same as above. It is medically-associated.
  • Wax/Budder: Dabbable concentrate made using a closed-loop extraction system and a solvent. It is hand whipped to create a solid, crumbly wax. Budder is oilier and malleable; it has a higher moisture content because it is whipped less.

Other

  • Rosin: Rosin is created by using pressure and heat on the plant to squeeze sap (Resin) out of it without using any chemical solvents.
  • Kief: Rich in trichomes, sifted from the leaves and flowers of the cannabis plant.
  • Moonrock: The most potent product; it’s made by using dry herb dipped in concentrates such as oil and then rolled in kief.

Recreational

  • Dabs
  • Distillate
  • Resin
  • Hash
  • BHO
  • Concentrates
  • Shatter/Tincture
  • Wax/Budder
  • Rosin
  • Kief
  • Moonrock
  • Edibles
  • Dried Herb
  • Capsules

Medical

  • Oromcosal Spray
  • Decarboxylated Capsules
  • Ingestible Extracts
  • Dried Herb
  • Capsules

Currently, Health Canada has only approved a few forms of cannabis. Other types have not been adequately studied, and their safety can be questionable. Learn more below of the approved Health Canada strains, and cannabis nomenclature.

  • Identify what form of cannabis was prescribed.
  • Identify the THC concentration.
  • Identify the CBD concentration.
  • Identify the ratio THC:CBD.
  • Identify the variety you were prescribed.
  • Identify the different terpene concentration.

There are two large groups of side effects, ones associated with higher THC content and others with higher CBD content. THC-related side effects comprise; milder effects (“high” feeling, dry mouth, dry eyes, euphoria, hunger) and worrisome effects (palpitations, psychosis, paranoia and panic attacks). Even though these have been associated with a higher content of THC, predominantly CBD strains can cause them too.

CBD-related side effects target the gastrointestinal tract (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, bloating and upset stomach). Though it has been identified more with predominantly CBD strains, it can be present with THC strains.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists longer than 6 weeks. It can be neuropathic, visceral, musculoskeletal or cancer-related. 70% of the research completed supports the use of cannabis for treating chronic pain.

Inflammation

Inflammation becomes a problem when the immune system begins to overwork itself, resulting in potential damage to tissues and cells. Cannabis is proven to help manage the pain associated with inflammation.

Cancer

Cancer can affect organs all over the body. Cannabis can be used to treat the numerous symptoms of cancer including nausea, pain, and inflammation. Research into treating the disease itself is inconclusive.

Sleep

Sleep disorders can be debilitating and frustrating. There is moderate evidence that supports the use of cannabis for sleep disorders such as insomnia resulting from chronic pain, anxiety, fibromyalgia or PTSD.

Neurological

Neurological disorders are conditions of the brain, spinal cord nerves including epilepsy, dementia, and migraines. Cannabis is an effective supplementary treatment for many of these disorders.

Mental Health

Mental health disorders affect a large number of the population. They encompass a number of conditions. There is conclusive evidence for the use of cannabis in treating depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Women’s Health

Women’s Heath refers to the obstetrical and gynecological health of women. Symptoms include mood swings, depression, and cramping. Evidence supports the use of cannabis for managing menstrual and pelvic pain.

Geriatrics

The geriatric population are the most common medical cannabis users. Seniors are often prone to several of the above conditions including chronic pain, sleeping disorders, and mood swings.

Other

This covers everything from infectious illnesses to heart diseases as well as osteoarthritis, diabetes, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and more. Cannabis can help manage the pain associated with these disorders.

After legalization, medical grade cannabis can only be accessed with a prescription through a licensed producer. Now that recreational legalization took effect, you can legally only buy from licensed dispensaries or through www.albertacannabis.org, privately owned retail stores or government-operated online sites (Government of Alberta).

Recreationally only at home and some public spaces where tobacco smoking is also allowed. Use in cars is banned (Government of Alberta).

Prescribed medical cannabis can be used as needed.

Consequences include fines, criminal charges or jail time. Similar to alcohol charges (RCMP 2014).

For example, in Alberta, driving high is illegal and it can’t be within reach of anyone in a vehicle (Alberta government, 2018)

18 and over but subject to provincial or territorial restrictions (Government of Canada, 2018).

It depends on the province, but in Alberta (Alberta government, 2017):

  • 30 grams is the most you can buy or carry at a time
  • Edibles are illegal.

Federally, there are other regulations, and they change from province to province (Government of Canada, 2018).

Yes, you can travel with your prescription, although it is your responsibility to know and abide by the laws of other provinces and territories if you are travelling to them (Government of Canada, 2018).

If you have a prescription, you can possess the total amount of your prescription or a maximum of 150 grams if your prescription exceeds 5 g/day. Recreationally, after October 17, 2018, one can possess up to 30 grams of dried product or the equivalent of non-dried product (Government of Canada, 2018).

The following is a list of products equivalent to one gram of dried product:

  • 5 grams of fresh cannabis
  • 15 grams of edible product
  • 70 grams of liquid product,
  • 0.25 grams of concentrates (solid or liquid)
  • 1 cannabis plant seed

In Canada, the difference relies on the existence of a prescription, the more concentrated CBD strains, and the possibility of insurance coverage.

It can be used in a variety of forms; some are associated with therapeutic benefits and others for recreational purposes. The types can be separated into four main groups; inhaled, ingested/sublingual, topical and other. The reasons why some methods (vaporizing dried herb, ingesting extracts/capsules, using the spray and using it as a topical) are considered to have more medicinal value than others is because:

  • The products from a Licensed Producer are regulated by Health Canada.
  • When smoked combustion takes place and produces carcinogens, gets cannabinoids deactivated and causes infections in the airways.
  • There is an absence of alcohols and other harmful gases.

For therapeutic purposes, it is better to vaporize, ingest extracts (not edibles) or capsules, and use spray. Thus, cannabinoids require a certain process to be activated (decarboxylated). There are three known ways in which these components are decarboxylated; pH changes (alcohol), temperature (heat) and exposure to UV light (Wang et al., 2016).

Vaping is less harmful than smoking cannabis, though the risks do not disappear. The use of a good vaporizer allows the user to control the temperature and avoid combustion, which has carcinogenic, pro-infectious effects and also facilitates the waste of cannabis (Wang et al., 2016)

Potential Therapeutic Uses

Click on the Boxes to Learn More

Chronic Pain
Chronic pain is defined as pain that persists longer than 6 weeks. It can be neuropathic, visceral, musculoskeletal or cancer-related. 70% of the research completed supports the use of cannabis for treating chronic pain.

Potential Use and Research Into the Following Conditions:

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Headache
  • Complex regional pain syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Herniated disc
  • Post-herpetic neuralgia

Inflammation
Inflammation becomes a problem when the immune system begins to overwork itself, resulting in potential damage to tissues and cells. Cannabis is proven to help manage the pain associated with inflammation.

Potential Use and Research Into the Following Conditions:

  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Ulcerative Colitis
  • Other Colitis
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Ankylosing Spondilitis

Cancer
Cancer can affect organs all over the body. Cannabis can be used to treat the numerous symptoms of cancer including nausea, pain, and inflammation. Research into treating the disease itself is inconclusive.

Potential Use and Research Into the Following Conditions:

  • Gynecological Cancer
  • Leukemias
  • Lymphomas
  • Brain Tumours
  • Melanomas
  • Lung Cancer
  • Prostate Cancer

Sleep
Sleep disorders can be debilitating and frustrating. There is moderate evidence that supports the use of cannabis for sleep disorders such as insomnia resulting from chronic pain, anxiety, fibromyalgia or PTSD.

Potential Use and Research Into the Following Conditions:

  • Sleep Disorders (resulting from anxiety, depression, pain syndromes, etc.)
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Nightmares Associated with PTSD
  • Isolated Insomnia

Neurological
Neurological disorders are conditions of the brain, spinal cord nerves including epilepsy, dementia, and migraines. Cannabis is an effective supplementary treatment for many of these disorders.

Potential Use and Research Into the Following Conditions:

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
  • Tourette Syndrome
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Headaches

Mental Health
Mental health disorders affect a large number of the population. They encompass a number of conditions. There is conclusive evidence for the use of cannabis in treating depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Potential Use and Research Into the Following Conditions:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Women’s Health
Women’s Heath refers to the obstetrical and gynecological health of women. Symptoms include mood swings, depression, and cramping. Evidence supports the use of cannabis for managing menstrual and pelvic pain.

Potential Use and Research Into the Following Conditions:

  • Menstrual Cramping
  • Premenstrual Syndrome
  • Chronic Pelvic Pain Due to Endometriosis

Geriatrics
The geriatric population are the most common medical cannabis users. Seniors are often prone to several of the above conditions including chronic pain, sleeping disorders, and mood swings.

Potential Use and Research Into the Following Conditions:

  • Mood Changes
  • Pain
  • Sleeping Disorders

Other
This covers everything from infectious illnesses to heart diseases as well as osteoarthritis, diabetes, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and more. Cannabis can help manage the pain associated with these disorders.

Potential Use and Research Into the Following Conditions:

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Glaucoma

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