FAQs: Cannabis As A Medication
This section includes answers to our most frequently asked questions about getting started with medical cannabis.
I am already using recreational marijuana, can I refer myself?
Absolutely! Many of our patients start self-medicating before they see us. We’re here to help you navigate the legal medical marijuana (cannabis) system, provide you with access to quality and regulated products, doctors, nurse practitioners, patient educators, ongoing support and continued cannabis education.
How does medical marijuana (cannabis) differ from recreational marijuana?
All marijuana (cannabis) can be used both medicinally and recreationally, but the reliability and safety of your marijuana can vary depending on the source. In the medical stream, marijuana is referred to as "cannabis". There are three main sources of cannabis: Legal medical cannabis is grown by licensed producers (LPs); companies who have been granted permission by Health Canada to grow and distribute cannabis products. These products are rigorously tested for mould and contaminants to ensure both safety and consistency with regard to cannabinoid and terpene concentrations. Strains of medical cannabis are often selected for their specific medicinal properties, based on research and patient feedback. Products are often tailored towards ease of use. Medical cannabis may also qualify for tax write-offs and/or insurance coverage. Many LPs offer compassionate care programs for low-income, veterans, seniors, & others. making it the best cost-effective option for those using cannabis as medicine. Recreational marijuana is also grown by LPs; however, recreational strains and products are often not geared towards the medical user (such as limited CBD options, capsules or sprays for easy dosing). Recreational marijuana purchased from an online dispensary or storefront does NOT qualify for a tax write-off or insurance coverage and is often sold at prices with greater markup margins. Grey market marijuana are plants that are NOT grown by a Health Canada approved licensed producer. These products are generally not considered reliable for the medical user, as they are not subjected to the same rigorous testing for safety and consistency.
What benefits does having an authorization for medical cannabis have over just getting cannabis from a recreational store?
Becoming a medical cannabis patient has many advantages, and it's important to know and understand the differences between using cannabis recreationally vs medicinally. By choosing the medical stream, you will see major differences in medical oversight, safety, cost, choice and human rights and stigma. As a medical patient, you have access to healthcare professionals who are specialized in the authorization of medical cannabis, and who can answer questions directly related to your medical history, symptoms and healthcare goals. Full medication reviews, treatment plans, education and ongoing support are all part of Harvest Medicine's commitment to our patient experience. Patients accessing medical cannabis from a can be confident in knowing they are using medical cannabis products that are clearly labelled, standardized for both THC and CBD content, and continuously tested to meet or exceed Health Canada safety standards. Additionally, when purchasing medical cannabis products from an LP there is no middleman, meaning there is less of a margin for price markups. Medication is ordered online directly from the LP and shipped to your home in discreet packaging. No visiting stores, no lineups, no surprises. It's medication when you need it. Many LPs have compassionate care programs to help reduce medical cannabis costs. Medical cannabis patients may also be eligible for private [insurance coverage] or for income tax deductions for their medical cannabis and even an authorized medical (vaporizer) device. Patients ordering direct from an LP, generally have more appropriate choices available to treat medical conditions, especially with access to products tailored specifically for medical consumption; this includes THC products, high-CBD products, new modes of delivery (sprays, topicals, gels, beverages, vapes, metered dosing devices, numerous balanced (CBD & THC) medications, & much more. In the end, it all adds up. If you're using marijuana for medicinal purposes, it just makes sense to be a part of the become a medical cannabis patient. Get started today!
What are the main cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant?
Although over 150 cannabinoids have been discovered to date, the two main (phyto)cannabinoids actively used in cannabinoid therapy are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) & Cannabidiol (CBD). Phytocannabinoids are produced by the cannabis plant and our bodies produce endocannabinoids. Check out our cannabinoid library to learn more.
What is the difference between CBD & THC?
THC, Tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive component of cannabis, in that it can create the feelings of euphoria and impairment that are traditionally associated with cannabis usage. Patients report that THC may be helpful as an appetite stimulant, mood-elevator, sleep aid, & pain relief. CBD, Cannabidiol, is the second most common active cannabinoid. It is considered to be non-impairing with anxiolytic, anti-seizure, anti-inflammatory, & pain-relieving properties. CBD is used widely throughout medical cannabis therapies due to its non-impairing nature.
What are the active components of cannabis?
There are hundreds of medicinal compounds found in the cannabis plant and over 100 cannabinoids. The two most frequently mentioned and studied are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). THC is the cannabinoid most commonly associated with the physical response of euphoria and feeling "high". It also may demonstrate analgesic, appetite stimulation, and anti-nausea properties. CBD is generally considered to be non-psychoactive. CBD is currently being studied for anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, anti-epileptic properties among other potential benefits. Researchers are now also looking closely at terpenes to identify what role they may play as part of the entourage effect.
What are terpenes?
Terpenes and terpenoids are a large class of organic chemical compounds found in nature. They are produced by a large number of plants and even some insects. Terpenes are known for often having a very strong, pungent smell, and are in almost everything we use...from cleaning products to beauty products. To date, over 200 terpenes have been identified that may occur in the cannabis plant. Every strain of cannabis has its own unique combination and concentration of terpenes, which creates a diverse palate and range of scents and flavours. Besides affecting aroma and flavour, there is evidence suggesting that terpenes may also define…and modify the effects of cannabis. Further research is ongoing to further understand the effects and function of each, both individually and as part of the entourage effect. The most common terpenes found in the cannabis plant are Myrcene, Pinene, and Caryophyllene. View our library of terpenes for additional information.
What is the entourage effect?
When the natural active components of cannabis are consumed together, they work synergistically to create what is referred to as "the entourage effect". For example, patients often report increased efficacy and modulation of the psychoactive effects of THC when consuming both THC and CBD together in what is called a "balanced" or "1:1" product. When a medication or product is manufactured to replicate cannabis effects in the human body, the entourage effect is entirely lost, because only a portion of the active components of cannabis is reproduced. We see this in pharmaceutical medications that are based on a particular cannabinoid, such as THC, and do not take into account the effects of all the effective components of the plant, such as terpenes. Terpenes (chemical building blocks of smell & taste) contribute to the odour and taste of cannabis are also being studied by researchers for their part in the "entourage effect".
Will CBD make me high?
Products that have a mainly CBD cannabinoid content (high-CBD or contain less than 2-4mg of THC) are considered to be non-impairing and do not have the same "high" effects as THC, making it a good choice for those who wish to avoid those feelings of euphoria commonly associated with cannabis. However, when medicating with a CBD product, patients may note effects including drowsiness, and a relaxed mood. For this reason, it is always important to use medical cannabis with the guidance of a healthcare professional.
Do I have to smoke my medical cannabis ?
Health Canada strongly discourages smoking as a method of using cannabis due to exposure to harmful carcinogens that may have a negative impact on lung health. Instead, patients are encouraged to use a vaporizer. A vaporizer is a device that heats dried cannabis flower to temperatures below the combustion point, so it does not burn and create carcinogens. Medicinal compounds are extracted and delivered to the lungs via vapour, created by the natural moisture within the plant material. Patients also have the option of using oil products (liquid, capsule, or sprays) that are taken orally or topical products that are applied directly to the skin. Your Harvest Medicine patient educator will help you with answers to all the questions you have with regard to how to safely consume your medical cannabis products.
Does medical cannabis expire?
With proper storage cannabis can last a long time, however, potency may decrease over time. If stored properly (cool, dark location, sealed container), it will last until the best before date shown on the products’s package. Storing dried cannabis flowers in the freezer is not recommended, as it can affect potency. Cannabis oil and dried flower should not be stored in the fridge, as it may encourage mould.
How much medical cannabis do I use?
Your authorizing healthcare professional will determine the amount of cannabis authorized on your medical document. On average, most patients consume between 0.5 to 3g per day. We encourage our patients to "start low and go slow", and to journal their experience to determine their optimal dosage. Our knowledgeable patient educators will be there to assist you every step of the way. If you need assistance with your starting dose, titrating up to your therapeutic dose, or have new medical changes, please call us or send us an email.
If I have questions about my medical cannabis and dosage, who do I contact?
Patients are encouraged to reach out to our patient care team by by phone or by email with your question, we will be happy to assist you. We will try to answer your question immediately, however, conversations that pertain to changing your dose regimen or new medication interactions will need to be addressed by a physician or nurse practitioner. In which case our patient care team can help you book an early follow-up appointment. We're dedicated to best-in-class patient care, and always here to help every step of the way!
What do I do if I have a bad reaction to my medical cannabis?
First, try to remain as calm as possible. Remind yourself that cannabis is a relatively safe drug and that this is a temporary situation. The effects of your cannabis will wear off with time, usually in a few hours for inhaled and 4-8 hours if ingested. Find a safe, comfortable spot to relax and sit or lie down. Call a friend or family member to help you. If you have not eaten, consume a light snack and plenty of water. Patients often report that orange juice, vitamin C or chewing on a peppercorn may help. If you feel your reaction is too severe, call 911 to seek immediate medical attention. You can also have someone take you to the nearest hospital emergency room. If your reaction is mild or moderate, please call us or your doctor and describe your symptoms. Once you are feeling better, it is advised to share this adverse reaction with your LP as they can often provide further insights.
Can I mix two different medical cannabis products together?
Yes. Please remember to measure the dosage, as the blended amount should not exceed what you and your doctor have determined works best for you. For example, 0.25g of an indica strain plus 0.25g of a sativa strain is still a 0.5g dosage of cannabis. Many patients use one strain for their active, wakeful hours, and a relaxing or sedating strain for bedtime.
Why do the THC and CBD levels change even if the strain name is the same?
It is important to remember that while licensed producers (LP) may offer products that share the same strain name, lineages may differ as well as growing methods that can affect THC and CBD concentration levels. You may see THC/CBD levels change from time to time between your regular products as well. This is due to the fact that while LPs have very standardized production methods, small fluctuations may naturally occur during the growing process.
What are the possible side effects of medical cannabis?
Medical cannabis is generally considered a safer medication to consume with less harmful side-effects than certain pharmaceutical medications such as opioids. It is important to note that products containing mostly CBD have very little side-effects whereas THC products tend to have more. Several side-effects from cannabis are also used to help with symptom management; for example, using THC as an appetite stimulant for a patient experiencing chemo-induced nausea. The side-effects of cannabis may include euphoria, dry mouth, elevated heart rate, drowsiness, impaired memory, dizziness, changes in blood pressure, disorientation and impairment. For this reason, it is important to undertake the use of medical cannabis under the guidance of a cannabis knowledgeable healthcare practitioner or seek treatment from a specialized clinic such as Harvest Medicine. Patients experiencing extreme negative side effects should seek immediate medical attention. Additionally, any experienced adverse reactions should be reported and discussed with your practitioner during your next follow-up appointment at Harvest Medicine.
Is cannabis addictive?
Unfortunately, the words addiction, dependency, and habit are used interchangeably but they very different. Cannabis Dependency, especially in youth and those prone to risk-taking behaviour or with certain mental health diagnoses is something to be considered. For this reason, Harvest Medicine healthcare practitioners conduct a thorough review of a patient's medical and mental health history. However, cannabis is not considered to be physically addictive in the same matter that opioids cause dependency. CBD in particular, has shown great potential for opioid reduction. Research has shown that cannabis has less addiction potential than nicotine, opiates, caffeine and alcohol, making it an option with less associated risks. However, medical cannabis may not be indicated for some individuals under the age of 25, or with certain mental health diagnosis. More information available online at the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Government of Canada Drug Prevention and Treatment websites.
Who should avoid cannabis?
This question is best answered by your doctor or Harvest Medicine practitioner, who can help you decide whether you are a good candidate, and could benefit from cannabinoid therapy. Cannabis with high THC levels is not advised for people under 25 years of age until the brain is fully developed. Some neurologists carefully administer CBD for children with a life-threatening seizure disorder or other special considerations. Anyone pregnant or breastfeeding should not consume cannabis in any form. Individuals with a history of psychosis or addiction issues may be assessed by a healthcare professional and specialist to evaluate the possible benefits of CBD products with THC % restrictions in place.
Will cannabis interfere with my medications? OR Is medical cannabis safe for me to consume?
Medical cannabis does interact with certain medications or classes of medications. During your first consultation, your doctor or nurse practitioner will conduct a comprehensive medical history overview, including a review of the current medications that you are taking, to assess whether you are a suitable candidate.
What is a THC % restriction? and why do certain patients have a THC % restriction on their medical document?
A THC % restriction is a mandatory directive on a medical document that is established by the authorizing medical professional; it refers to the maximum allowable % of THC (per product) that a patient may access through their chosen licensed producer. These restrictions are very important, carefully considered and put in place if there are concerns for a patient's safety or well being. Harvest Medicine has rigorous protocols in place to ensure that our patients receive appropriate cannabinoid care, which is tailored to the patient’s condition(s). Common contraindications that may result in a THC % restriction are other medication interactions, past medical history, known substance abuse, psychosis, cardiovascular disease, and age. Patients may request a THC % restriction put in place to ensure that they only order CBD and/or low THC % products, such as balanced oils or dried flowers. At Harvest Medicine, this is a common request amongst our elderly patients and patients who work in safety-sensitive positions. If you have questions about a THC % restriction, please call us or send us an email.