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The Beginner’s Guide: Taking Medical Cannabis

October 15, 2019 • • GeneralMedical Marijuana
The Beginner's Guide Taking Medical Cannabis

The Beginner’s Guide: Taking Medical Cannabis

In our first Beginner’s Guide, we discussed how to receive a recommendation for and purchase marijuana. Once you have your recommendation, here’s how to start your medical marijuana treatment regimen.  Now that Ohio has approved medical marijuana as a treatment option for 21 qualifying conditions, residents interested in cannabis therapy for symptom relief have several options for taking their medication. However, starting medical cannabis for the first time can be intimidating, and new patients should lean on their doctor and dispensary staff for guidance.  Before you actually take medical cannabis, you’ll need a recommendation from your doctor. Your physician files a recommendation with the Ohio Medical Marijuana patient portal, where you can obtain a copy of the certification, sometimes called a marijuana card. With that certification in hand along with proof of residency, you can enter one of 57 dispensaries in the state.  After reviewing your condition and confirming your paperwork, the dispensary staff will guide you through the types of medical marijuana products available, dosage limits, and the proper way to transport the medical cannabis home. It’s up to you to decide your preferred delivery method for medical marijuana.

What Type of Medical Marijuana Should I Use?

Ohio permits the sale of several medical marijuana-based products at state-licensed dispensaries, so you’ll want to talk to your doctor and the dispensary attendant to understand which is the best option for you. Although Ohio law prohibits smoking of medical marijuana, the variety of cannabis-infused items available at dispensaries ensures plenty of options.  Products contain different strengths of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis, and can only be purchased as a 90-day supply. While the number of choices may be intimidating at first, you fortunately get to choose the one best suited for your lifestyle, comfort level, and medical needs.
  • Cannabis Plants: While smoking medical marijuana is prohibited, dried buds and other plant matter can be purchased and fitted into a vaporizer. When placed in a vaporizer and heated, the buds release a vapor that you can inhale. These are typically straightforward to buy and use, and you’ll feel the effects of the cannabis fairly quickly. Dry herb vaporizers can be bought as a pen-like instrument, portable vaporizer, or a desktop vaporizer. Ohio sells eight ounces of dried buds with a THC level at or below 23%, or a THC potency of 23% and 35% for 5.3 ounces.
  • Vaporization Oils or Waxes: Instead of the dried cannabis buds, you can heat a highly concentrated oil or wax in a vaporizer. These concentrates are said to contain 70% of THC per dose versus 35% from the dried bud. Be aware that not all vaporizers have the capacity to heat the oil and wax; you may have to purchase one specifically designed for concentrates. For some, using a consistent amount of a concentrated form may be easier than figuring out the correct amount of dried bud. 
  • Topicals. Lotions, creams, patches, and ointments infused with medical marijuana provide pain relief when applied to a specific area of the body. Topicals are easy to use and can be especially helpful in alleviating joint pain. 
  • Edibles. In May, Ohio dispensaries kicked off the sale of gummy candy infused with 10 mg of THC. Other options soon to be for sale include brownies, cookies, and lollipops. Edibles are also easy to use, but are slightly more difficult to dose. Patients must work up to a full dosage slowly, graduating to larger doses as they build tolerance.
  • Tinctures. More recently, tinctures have appeared on the shelves of Ohio dispensaries. These solutions are made by soaking dried marijuana buds in an alcohol compound. The tincture is then dabbed under the tongue with an eye-dropper. For many patients, tinctures are an easy way to take in the medical marijuana, and gives them more control over the dosage.

What are the Differences?

Each product and delivery method administers medical marijuana at varying strengths as well as duration. Vaporization produces almost immediate effects because it enters the respiratory system. Compared to smoking, vaporization has less of a harmful impact on the lungs. Consumables, meanwhile, travel through the digestive tract and, therefore, you may have to wait longer to get the benefits. However, the effects can last between four to six hours when THC winds it way through the digestive system. When that happens, our bodies convert THC to its most potent form — 11-hydroxy-THC. Tinctures work faster than edibles, while lotions ease discomfort in about an hour. Until you are familiar with medical cannabis effects, start with the lowest dosage, and then increase the amount to find on a level that works for you. As always, discuss any side effects or unusual symptoms with your physician. 

We’re Here to Help

Lakewood Medical Clinic physicians are certified to recommend medical marijuana as a therapy. We’ll help you understand the benefits of medical cannabis, the qualifying process, and which products would give you optimal therapeutic advantages. Contact us today to learn more – we’ll design a treatment plan just for you.