It’s official: cannabis has leaped from illegal substance to health-and-wellness superstar. Legalization in Canada was one of 2018’s top news stories, and public interest in this monumental cultural shift remains high. These days, it seems every family has at least one self-appointed cannabis expert.
Ultimately, it’s a good thing that our society is learning how to better use and regulate cannabis for health and recreation, but as our collective knowledge grows, some myths are taking root, too.
Here are 5 common cannabis misconceptions we’d like to smoke out for good:
Misconception: Medical cannabis and recreational cannabis are the same
Let’s unpack this one. Health Canada regulates both recreational and medical cannabis streams, so you can expect all legal cannabis products to be lab-tested for cannabinoids and terpenes, and free of harmful chemicals, whether you purchase them from an authorized recreational store or from a licensed producer via prescription. You’ll also find some of the same products being sold medically and recreationally, and meet people who are using so-called recreational strains in a medical manner – to self-treat sleep or anxiety issues, for instance.
But there are still some significant differences between these two streams. Depending on the limits of your medical authorization, you may be able to possess and carry more cannabis if it was authorized by a doctor or nurse practitioner. And, come tax season, the cannabis you buy with that authorization is an eligible medical expense, while cannabis purchased recreationally is not. But the biggest advantage to getting a prescription is that it comes with medical support.
Misconception: Cannabis knowledge is medical knowledge
A savvy cannabis retailer can help you pair cannabis products with particular activities, moods, meals or music, but a healthcare professional is still the best person to see for medical cannabis guidance. If you have been diagnosed with a serious condition, take prescription medications, or want to explore cannabis as an alternative to your current prescriptions, your best bet is to see a professional.
Misconception: Cannabis is completely harmless
Cannabis has a great safety profile, but like all medications, it comes with a specific set of potential risks and side effects. Plus, cannabis comes in many forms. High-THC capsules may look the same as their CBD-containing counterparts, but their effects, side effects and potential drug interactions are wildly different. And while there’s never been a reported cannabis “overdose”, taking too much can feel like dying. Whether you’re trying a new cannabinoid medicine or testing out a recreational product, the best advice is to always start low and go slow.
Misconception: CBD is not psychoactive
If we’re being technical, any chemical that alters brain chemistry to influence mood, perception or behaviour – as CBD does – is psychoactive. A more accurate way to put it is that CBD is not intoxicating. In general, CBD has a stellar safety profile, but it’s not for everyone. People who are taking anti-epileptic drugs as well as certain antidepressants, antipsychotics, opioids and statins risk disrupting the effectiveness of those drugs with CBD. If you take medication for any reason, it’s best to speak with a knowledgeable healthcare provider for advice on dosing and interactions.
Misconception: Indica and sativa are important terms
Indica and sativa are names given to different cultivars of cannabis, the idea being that indicas are thick, bushy plants with relaxing effects and sativas are tall, slim and stimulating. Although this may have been a useful distinction in the past, these days most strains are so interbred that their appearance is an unlikely predictor of genetic origin or potential effects.
When people use the terms indica and sativa, it’s hard to know if they’re using them as shorthand for effects or botanical appearance. But since most of us care more about how products make us feel than how they look, our best advice is to forget about indica vs sativa, and focus on cannabinoid and terpene content instead, as those are much better predictors of effect.