What is Medical Cannabis?

Cannabis – a flowering plant in the Cannabaceae family and one of the world’s oldest cultivated plants – has been used by humans for multiple purposes over thousands of years. 

Cannabis contains chemicals called phytocannabinoids (‘phyto’ is a Greek word meaning ‘of a plant’). Cannabinoids can also be found within the human body (endocannabinoids) and can be produced synthetically in a laboratory (synthetic cannabinoids). 

Medicinal cannabis products are predominantly extracted from the cannabis plant – called ‘phyto- cannabinoids’ – used to treat an expanding list of medical conditions including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, chronic non-cancer pain, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, and palliative (end-of-life) care. Medicinal cannabis products include oils, capsules and sprays. 

Synthetic cannabinoids are chemical compounds that have been produced in the laboratory to mimic the actions of phytocannabinoids. Some have been developed for medicinal use, although none are approved by the TGA. Other, less standardised synthetic cannabinoids can have more harmful side effects than phytocannabinoids, and when used have resulted in a number of deaths. 

In Australia, medicinal cannabis is different to recreational cannabis (also known as marijuana) in that: 

  • Medicinal cannabis products must comply with the Australian standards for producing pharmaceutical-grade medicines
  • Medical cannabis contains known quantities of the cannabinoids tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and/or cannabidiol (CBD) whereas recreational cannabis usually contains unknown and high quantities of THC
  • Medical cannabis is cultivated and manufactured legally
  • Medical cannabis is intended to address a health condition or symptom. 
Why Medical Cannabis
Cannabis Flower

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