In the USA, the fastest-growing alternative treatment for pain relief is also the most controversial. It’s medical cannabis (MC), the herb formerly known as marijuana (an antiquated term with an anti-Hispanic history).

Even though MC has now been legalized in 33 states plus the District of Columbia (and recreational cannabis in ten), problems and confusion about its use and legality persist. According to the DEA, it is still illegal federally and classified as Schedule 1 — no medicinal uses. Many patients, and now doctors, disagree.

green cross icon/symbol of medical cannabisAccording to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Atlanta neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent for CNN,

“We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.

[Marijuana] does not have a high potential for abuse and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works.”

Cannabis is now commonly used to treat back pain, arthritis, IBS, migraines, anxiety,  insomnia, and even depression. Countries that have legalized the ancient herb include Canada, Germany, Spain, Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Israel, Peru and now the majority of states in the USA.

This blog will break through some of the myths and confusion about medical cannabis (MC) and it’s cousin, CBD.


What is Medical Cannabis?

Medical cannabis consists of the dried flowers of the cannabis plant and the many products derived from the plant. Though traditionally smoked, more and more patients are using healthier delivery systems, like cannabis creams, edibles and tinctures. 


CBD and medical cannabis are derived from different forms of the cannabis plant. CBD oil is extracted from tall, skinny industrial hemp plants, a cannabis sativa which may contain small amounts (0.3% or less) of THC. Medical cannabis comes from quite different strains (sativa and indica) that are shorter and bushier and contain varying amounts of THC.

The cannabis sativa plant contains over 100 compounds, many of which have healing medicinal properties. Two of the most abundant of these are THC, the psychoactive component, and CBD, or cannabidiol, with its healing anti-inflammatory properties. CBD is cannabis without the high.

CBD products are derived from hemp with little THC content. Some CBD products are 100% THC free. Those who prefer cannabis without the high can get relief from CBD products, where the active ingredient is CBD (cannabidiol), not THC (psycho-active ingredient).

The medical cannabis field is rapidly evolving. Low THC varieties are now being used as therapy for seizures. In 2018, the FDA approved Epidiolex for treating Dravet Syndrome, a severe seizure disorder found in children. It was the first cannabis plant-based medication in history to be approved by the FDA. 


bottle of joy organics cbd oil tincture/medical cannabis product

JOY CBD Tincture/Zero THC

Sublingual tinctures can help relieve pain, improve sleep and reduce narcotic dependence. Some tinctures contain THC, however, JOY Organics tinctures and other JOY CBD products are THC free.


jar of joy organics cbd salve/medical cannabis product

Organic CBD Salve 


Among the most helpful cannabis preparations are the topicals. With their anti-inflammatory effects, salves can ease the intense itching of psoriasis and eczema. JOY Organics offers an organic CBD Salve, THC free, free shipping, and a money-back guarantee.

Some patients prefer cannabis and CBD capsules, however, tinctures are generally more effective.

What’s the difference between medical and recreational cannabis? It’s largely a matter of intent and THC content. Many patients prefer strains with a lower concentration of THC.


Medical Cannabis: Ayurvedic Herb

Cannabis is not a new plant. It’s a medicinal herb that’s been used for thousands of years, first in India and China, then in Europe and the USA. In Ayurveda (Ayur = life, Veda = knowledge), the healing branch of yogic science, cannabis is found in over 80 herbal formulas, most often prescribed for pain, sleep, digestive disorders or as an aphrodisiac. Doctors in America now prescribe it for chronic pain and the anxiety and insomnia of PTSD. Even Ayurvedic physician Dr. Deepak Chopra has tried, and now recommends medical cannabis.


                                                          • • •


Book cover alternative pain relief/chapter5/medical cannabis and cbd

The New Peoples Pharmacy

Cannabis is a true people’s pharmacy — a plant with a wide variety of medicinal benefits, and yes, also side effects. It has helped many to reduce their dependence on prescription painkillers, tranquilizers, and sleeping pills.

Cannabis is not for everybody. However, I believe it should be a first-line option for those who need it, not the last resort. Ask your health care provider if cannabis is right for you.



The Myth

The myth that cannabis is a gateway drug persists. According to Dr. Uma Dhanabalan, Massachusetts family physician and cannabis activist, “Cannabis is not an entrance drug — it’s an exit drug — from pharmaceuticals and narcotics.”

She prescribes cannabis for pain instead of narcotic pain pills, adding “Now, I don’t contribute at all to the opioid epidemic in the U.S. — I haven’t written an opioid prescription in six years. What I’m fighting for is for it to be de-scheduled and treated like alcohol and tobacco, which means it can be taxed but will be available to people over the age of 21.”

In my next blog, we’ll focus on what medical conditions qualify for the use of medical cannabis and cover the major and minor side effects of medical cannabis.

Can’t wait? Have a look at my new book, Alternative Pain Relief: A Pill-Free Tool Kit, available in ebook and print.


Harrison Graves MD and Alex

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