USING MISSOURI MEDICAL
Medical Marijuana & Your Body
Cannabis (also called “marijuana“) is an effective medicine used by millions of people worldwide to treat and alleviate symptoms of many serious medical conditions that do not respond to traditional treatments or prescription medications. A wealth of studies have proven that organic medical marijuana has therapeutic properties that cannot be copied by any other currently prescribed medications or synthetic alternatives, as well as shown that medical marijuana produces far fewer and much less severe side effects than most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter drugs.
If you don’t have any prior experience, learning how to use medical marijuana can seem a little overwhelming at first. You might only associate marijuana with smoking, but there are actually many ways to take advantage of the benefits of medical cannabis!
However, before you are legally able to possess or consume medical marijuana products in Missouri, you will first need to get certified by a physician and get your MO MMJ card approved by MO DHSS. Once you’ve been approved and received your medical marijuana Patient ID card, you will be able to visit a dispensary and start exploring the many types of medical cannabis products available. The dispensary staff will be very knowledgeable about the effects of different types of medical marijuana products, as well as their ingredients and intended dosage.
Cannabis 101: What Is Medical Marijuana?
All medical marijuana products come from the cannabis plant. The versatile cannabis plant has fibrous stalks used for paper, clothing, rope, and building materials; leaves, flowers, and roots used for medicinal purposes; and seeds used for food and fuel oil. Cannabis leaves and flowers are consumed in several forms: dried flower buds or various types of concentrated, loose, or pressed resin extracted from the flowers or leaves through a variety of methods. Once mature, the plant’s leaves and flowers are covered with trichomes, tiny glands of resinous oil containing cannabinoids and terpenes that provide physical and psychoactive effects.
The term “cannabinoids” refers to the specific compounds found in cannabis. While there are over 100 different types of cannabinoids that have been identified in cannabis, the two most well-known cannabinoids are Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). THC was the first compound discovered in cannabis, and also has the most psychoactive affects of any cannabinoid. When consumed, THC increases the amount of natural cannabinoids that the body produces, which causes a mild euphoric feeling. Cannabinoid receptors in the brain are associated with memory, pleasure, thinking, time perception, and coordination; all of these functions can be affected by THC depending on the amount consumed. THC has many health benefits due to its interaction with your body, including:
- Pain relief
- Sleep aid
- Appetite stimulant
- Anxiety reduction
CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that provides therapeutic benefits without producing a “high” feeling like THC. CBD activates neural receptors in your brain like serotonin, adenosine, and vanilloid. Seratonin aids in controlling your mood, adenosine helps to control your sleep cycle, and vanilloid receptors mediate pain signals in your body. CBD also connects with the receptors that are responsible for regulating your body temperature and immunity, which helps to actively reduce inflammation.
Due to these and other effects of THC & CBD on the body, medical marijuana is an excellent treatment option for a wide variety of conditions, including:
- Chronic pain, inflammation, & muscle spasms
- Arthritis, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, & joint pain
- Epilepsy & essential tremors
- Migraine headaches
- PTSD & ADD
- Asthma & COPD
- HIV/AIDS & other autoimmune disorders
- Opioid Addiction
- Menstrual discomfort & menopause
- Crohn’s & Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Depression & anxiety
- Nausea & vomiting
Types of Cannabis & Their Benefits
Medical marijuana has two main varieties, Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica, that are used to make medical marijuana products. Each of these varieties, and various combinations in different amounts, have different effects on the body. While all medical marijuana provides similar benefits, the specific effects of indica and sativa are a little different from each other. Indica‘s benefits include relaxation, sleepiness, reduced nausea, reduced inflammation, tiredness, relaxed muscles, and reduced focus. The benefits of sativa include increased energy, increased clarity and focus, mood elevation, nausea relief, and increased appetite. Cross-breeding strains of sativa and indica creates hybrid strains, which can offer benefits from both types of cannabis.
Different “strains” of medical marijuana are bred specifically for their THC or CBD content, as well as their effects on the body, and many of these strains are given names to identify them, such as “Girl Scout Cookies” or “Blueberry Kush.” The identified strains of cannabis are nearly endless; this level of diversity and complexity is partially what helps medical marijuana to be applied as an effective treatment for a wide variety of medical ailments. Dispensary employees are very knowledgeable about the types of medical marijuana products available and whether each product involves strains of sativa, indica, or a hybrid of the two; some strains may be sativa-dominant, others indica-dominant, or a 50-50 sativa-indica hybrid. The dispensary staff will also be knowledgeable about the recommended dosage amounts of different products, as well as their effects, medical benefits, and estimated duration of effect per dose.
In a Missouri dispensary, you can identify different strains and THC/CBD content of medical marijuana by their individual names, such as Flora Farm’s “Gorilla Glue” or C4’s “Wedding Cake”. Every medical marijuana product is required by Missouri law to be labeled with specific information, in this order:
- Total weight of marijuana contained in the package
- Dosage amounts, instructions for use, & est. length of time of dosage effect
- THC & CBD concentration per dosage
- All active & inactive ingredients
- Name of cultivation facility or infused-product manufacturer
In addition, all medical marijuana products must always be tagged with traceability information generated by statewide track-and-trace systems. The dispensary staff will also record your consumption information, which serves two purposes: first, to make sure you will not purchase any more than your limit of 4 oz. (or equivalent) of medical marijuana within a 30-day period; and second, to help provide you with a personalized treatment plan and track which products and types of cannabis work best for your body. Every person’s body reacts in its own way to any medication; the effects of medical marijuana are well-known but do vary from person to person. Just like with other medication, the strains or products that work best for your treatment may not be as effective for someone else. A dispensary is like a pharmacy in many ways; the dispensary staff will make sure you have the help you need to navigate through the wide variety of medical marijuana products available in Missouri.
Ways To Use Medical Marijuana
The most well-known form of using medical marijuana comes from inhaling the smoke or vapor produced when loose cannabis flower or cannabis concentrate is burned. There are three main ways to inhale medical marijuana: smoking, vaporizing, and “dabbing”. Smoking refers to burning dried (cured) marijuana in a rolled marijuana cigarette (“joint”) or in a pipe, and then inhaling the smoke that is produced. Smoking cured medical marijuana is one of the quickest methods for its effects to be felt immediately, and smoking from a pipe or water pipe (“bong”) helps to control the dosage consumed. Research has shown that although smoking cannabis does not increase your risk of lung or other cancers, it may still produce unpleasant bronchial effects such as harsh coughing due to the inhalation of tars or other irritants present in the cannabis itself. Because of the potential for lung irritation, smoking medical marijuana is not recommended for patients with asthma or other pulmonary issues.
Vaporizing, also called “vaping”, is the safest way to inhale medical marijuana, and requires a vaporization device, often called a “vaporizer” or “vape pen”. Vaporizers work by heating dried marijuana or cannabis oils to the point where they become an airborne vapor, without bringing other plant material to combustion, which drastically reduces the amount of tars and other chemical irritants that a patient would otherwise inhale from smoking. Vaporizers also emit much less odor than any type of smoking, which makes them a popular choice for patients who want to consume their medical marijuana discreetly or on-the-go. Vaporizers can be found as table-top units and as super-portable “pens” that can easily slip into your purse or pocket!
“Dabbing” refers to using a super-heated instrument to vaporize highly-concentrated amounts of THC in a medical marijuana oil or “wax”. This method vaporizes the cannabis very quickly and immediately delivers a concentrated dose. A “dab pen” or similar device is typically heated with a butane torch and then quickly “dabbed” against the concentrate, producing vapor that is then inhaled. This vapor is safer for your lungs than inhaling smoke, and because it is able to deliver an extremely concentrated dose to the brain, results in immediate relief from pain, spasms, and nausea. Because dabbing instantly delivers such a strong dose of psychoactive compounds, it is not recommended for those who are not already experienced users of medical marijuana.
Another highly-popular method of consuming medical marijuana is through ingestion, which consists of eating or drinking products that are made with medical marijuana or infused with THC. The most common ingestible products are edibles and beverages, although there are many advocates of ingesting raw cannabis by juicing leaves and buds or adding them to smoothies. Because ingesting medical marijuana requires the compounds to be digested before being absorbed into the blood stream, the effect takes longer to occur and typically lasts longer than the effects of inhalation. Ingestion is one of the safest ways to consume medical marijuana, and as such is the preferred method for children & elderly patients.
Edibles are available in a wide variety of foods and snacks, from cookies and candy to peanut butter and even ice cream! A major advantage of using edibles is that a patient can precisely measure their dosage when consuming. However, the effects are concentrated and delayed by the body’s digestive processes, so it can be easy to over-consume for beginners. Dosages may also vary depending on a patient’s weight, metabolism, experience level, and other factors, so it is always recommended to start out small and increase dosages as necessary. There are also concentrates available to use when cooking to make your own edibles at home!
Several types of medical marijuana-infused beverages are available at your local dispensary, including sodas, teas, juices, and even wine! Many patients infuse their own teas with medical marijuana by steeping a bud, piece of wax, or tincture in hot water. Because beverages are ingestibles that travel through your digestive system, the effects of the medical marijuana do not kick in right away. These beverages can be used for a slow acting, long-lasting affect and are a great way to provide prolonged relief from severe stress and anxiety.
In recent years, ingesting raw cannabis has gathered quite a following. Similar to other ingestible medical marijuana products, consuming marijuana in its raw form poses none of the health risks associated with smoking or inhaling, as well as provides a longer-lasting delivery from digestion. The best way to consume fresh medical marijuana is by mixing cannabis leaves and buds into a juice or smoothie — cannabis does not having a very pleasing taste on its own. Like with other fresh vegetables, medical marijuana begins releasing its nutrition the moment it is cut or pureed, so drinking it right away will give maximum benefits. Many advocates of ingesting raw cannabis claim that it is the superior method of consumption because the raw plant loses some of its medicinal compounds when it is heated, dried, or processed.
Tinctures, Topicals, & Suppositories
There are a variety of other medical marijuana products available at your local dispensary. For patients who do not wish to smoke or ingest medical cannabis, these alternative ways to use medical marijuana may provide a safer or more comfortable option to enjoy the many benefits of using medical marijuana. Three main alternative products that can be commonly found at a dispensary are tinctures, topicals, and suppositories.
Tinctures (sometimes referred to as “sub-linguals”) are oils or sprays with a mixture of cannabinoid extracts and alcohol, glycerin, or a medium-chain triglyceride, such as coconut oil. They typically come in a small bottle and are absorbed through the mouth by spraying or placing a drop under the tongue. A tincture allows patients to easily control their dosage, and there is only a mild after-taste, which makes a tincture ideal for children and patients seeking to administer a very low dose. However, tinctures and sprays take a while for their effects to be felt, and can be expensive for patients who need higher doses.
Topical solutions such as lotions, ointments, sprays, salves and other similar products have been used to relieve muscle soreness, joint pain, tendinitis and other issues for hundreds of years. Marijuana topicals are creams, ointments, and lotions that are infused with the active ingredients in medical marijuana. Topicals are designed to be applied directly to the skin near an area of localized pain or inflammation, which provides the benefits of medical marijuana without producing a “high”. Marijuana topicals are great for treating pain and inflammation from a variety of conditions including arthritis, chapped skin, eczema, minor burns, muscle soreness, sunburns, joint pain, and tendonitis, just to name a few.
Like many other medications, medical cannabis may also be taken in a suppository form. Suppositories are applied by inserting a small cone-shaped mass of medical marijuana extract into the rectum, where it is quickly absorbed through the colon. The effects of marijuana suppositories are felt very quickly, and last a long time. Using suppositories as an alternative to smoking or ingesting is a great option for patients who are concerned about negative health risks or measuring an exact dosage. However, most medical marijuana suppositories need to stay refrigerated, which does not make them ideal for use away from home.
Ask Your Local Dispensary Staff
While there are plenty of resources available online to help MMJ cardholders better understand the wide array of medical marijuana products available and their effects, benefits, and risks, it is always recommended to ask your local dispensary staff about the specific products they have available in the store. They will be able to provide specific information about each product such as THC percentage or recommended dosage, as well as give insights about the experience of other medical marijuana patients who have used the products. Dispensary employees receive extensive training and are well-equipped to answer a patient’s questions about every medical marijuana product on the shelves, as well as recommending which products would be best suited to treat the patient’s medical conditions. Many dispensaries have a website with information as well as online ordering systems, which is a convenient way to grab your medical marijuana products without disrupting your hectic schedule! A quick Google search of “medical marijuana dispensary near me” is an easy way to find a few local dispensaries in your area. We have also provided an interactive digital map of Springfield, MO area dispensaries for those patients in the Southwest Missouri area.