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Beyond the High: Medical Marijuana without the Psychoactive Effects

Finding relief with modern medical treatments (especially pharmaceuticals) can be difficult for people living with anxiety. If relief seems completely out of reach, you might be ready to try alternative options like medical marijuana—even if you’re on the fence about weed.

At TeleLeaf, we understand your skepticism: marijuana hasn’t always received the best press coverage. But we’re here to help you understand the nitty-gritty of using cannabis as medicine.

If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of getting high, you might think that marijuana isn’t an option for you, but that’s not the case. Strains of the Cannabis sativa plant contain various healing compounds in a wide array of concentrations, and many of these aren’t psychoactive (meaning that they won’t get you high).

In this guide, we’re breaking down how to heal with medical marijuana without the intoxicating effects.

Can You Take Medical Cannabis Without Getting High?

Does weed always get you high? Not necessarily.

To explain why, let’s break down two key parts of the cannabis conversation: cannabinoids and strains.

Cannabinoids 101

Cannabinoids are a group of compounds found in the Cannabis sativa plant. You’ve likely already heard of the two most common cannabinoids (sometimes called the “major cannabinoids”):

  1. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  2. Cannabidiol (CBD)

But in addition to the major cannabinoids, some strains (we’ll explain strains in more detail in the next section) include minor cannabinoids like:

  • Tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV)
  • Cannabichromene (CBC)
  • Cannabigerol (CBG)
  • Cannabinol (CBN)

All of these cannabinoids interact with your body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS)—everyone has an ECS, and our bodies make a number of cannabinoids on their own. The ECS has two key receptors: CB1 and CB2. The ways in which a cannabinoid interacts with one (or both) of these receptors determine how it will affect the body.

While receptor activity is highly complex, there’s one key thing to know about the ECS, cannabinoids, and psychoactivity: THC is the only cannabinoid that interacts with the ECS to create intoxicating effects.

This is good news for people looking to try medical cannabis without getting high: there are numerous healing cannabis compounds you can try that won’t create psychoactive effects.

Understanding Strains

If you’re interested in trying medical marijuana without the high, you have options. But how do you find what you’re looking for? You choose a strain that includes the cannabinoids you’re looking for and steer clear of strains that include THC. That’s it.

While all marijuana products come from the Cannabis sativa plant, cannabis experts have cultivated numerous sub-types of this plant. Why? To create cannabis products with high concentrations of specific cannabinoids.

Medical marijuana background with cannabis leaves and buds sorrounding the word THC hand written on dark board

Strains with a high concentration of CBD are the most common, but strains focused on minor cannabinoids are rising in popularity. When you head to the dispensary or pharmacy in search of low-THC strains, you’re likely to encounter options like:

  • Cherry Wine
  • Remedy
  • Harle-Tsu
  • Sour Tsunami
  • Charlotte’s Web
  • Suzy Q

However, the strains available at your local cannabis purveyor will depend on geographic region, state laws, and other factors. The best way to find a strain that works for you is to ask your medical cannabis doctor and your budtender (the expert behind the counter at the dispensary) for suggestions.

What to Look for at the Dispensary or Pharmacy

Speaking of dispensaries (or pharmacies, if you’re from Louisiana), let’s touch on how to navigate finding the perfect non-psychoactive marijuana product for your healing journey. As you experiment with products to find your ideal formula, chat with your budtender about the following product characteristics:

Cannabinoid Profile

Since legal medical marijuana products are highly regulated, you’ll find a variety of information printed on each package, including:

  • Product name
  • Strain
  • Cannabinoid concentrations
  • Overall product mass
  • Nutrition facts (for edible products)

If you’re looking to avoid intoxication, the cannabinoid profile is the most important factor to consider before purchasing or consuming a marijuana product. Choose products with less than 1% THC if you’re looking for healing effects without the high.

You might be thinking, “Isn’t 1% THC enough to get me high?” The answer is “Probably not.”

Everyone’s threshold for intoxication is different—your age, tolerance, and weight are all factors that can influence how much (or how little) THC it takes for you to get high. While we can’t say with certainty how much THC would tip you over the edge, it’s generally safe to assume that any product with less than 1% THC concentration won’t produce an intoxicating effect. The volume of THC is typically low enough to be negligible.

Strain

Depending on where you live and your specific dispensary, you may not see every strain on the list above. Don’t worry—your budtender is available to help.

Even if you don’t recognize a strain by name, you can confirm that it meets your criteria by looking at:

  • Formula – Your budtender will be able to describe the formula of each product. If you find a CBG vape cartridge, for instance, it might be made from a combination of CBG isolate (oil containing only one cannabinoid extracted from the cannabis plant) and full-spectrum hemp oil (oil extracted from plants with 0.3% THC or less).
  • Concentration – As we said above, choose products with a THC concentration of 1% or less if you’re looking to avoid intoxication.

Concentrations and Bioavailability

Understanding concentration is key for anyone using medical cannabis. It’s easiest to explain using a hypothetical:

  • A half-gram, pre-rolled joint from your local dispensary contains 20% CBD, 5% CBG, and 0.5% THC.
  • These percentages describe how much of a cannabinoid you’ll find in a product by weight. So, your half-gram joint will include:
    • 0.1 grams (or 100 milligrams) of CBD
    • 0.025 grams (or 25 milligrams) of CBG
    • 0.0025 grams (or 2.5 milligrams) of THC

However, two things are important to note about the product above:

  1. You’ll only consume all of the above cannabinoid volume at one time if you smoke the entire joint in one sitting. If you’re new to medical cannabis, a half-gram joint may outlast one smoking session.
  2. While you’ll find the above cannabinoid volumes in your product in a lab test, your body can’t absorb 100% of this content.

The second concept is related to bioavailability or the amount of a compound that your body can easily absorb.

Bioavailability is one of the reasons why a product with even 1% THC isn’t enough to get you high—current data suggests that THC only has about 10 to 35% bioavailability when smoked (and even less when ingested). So, even if your body absorbs 35% of 2.5 milligrams of THC in a half-gram joint, that’s still only 0.875 milligrams (which is very likely to be negligible).

As you search for your ideal cannabis product, close attention to concentrations and an understanding of bioavailability will help you get the effects you’re looking for while avoiding intoxication.

Low-THC Products: A Growing Market

While you might think that you’ll be hard-pressed to find a low-THC formula at your dispensary, this likely won’t be the case. As scientific knowledge about cannabis grows, more state governments pass medical marijuana legislation, and more people find healing through cannabis, brands will only continue to diversify their offers and formulas.

Since the cannabis industry is developing so quickly, we recommend asking your budtender about any new low-THC products whenever you visit the dispensary. Keeping an eye out for new products can help you find the perfect recipe for healing.

Discovering Recovery with TeleLeaf

At TeleLeaf, we understand how hard it can be to find long-lasting, effective healing in modern medicine. We’ve been where you are.

That’s why we’re committed to teaching people about medical cannabis. We’re here to answer your questions, connect you with resources, and help you find the healing you deserve. Reach out to TeleLeaf to learn more about how medical marijuana could revolutionize your healing journey.


Sources:

VeryWellHealth. What Are Cannabinoids?
https://www.verywellhealth.com/cannabinoids-4847186

Phylos. Understanding the Major Potential of Minor Cannabinoids.
https://phylos.bio/blog/understanding-the-major-potential-of-minor-cannabinoids

Medical News Today. What to Know About Endocannabinoids and the Endocannabinoid System.
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/endocannabinoid

Greatist. Anxious? Achy? Existential? These 15 High-CBD, Low-THC Cannabis Strains May Bring Relief.
https://greatist.com/health/high-cbd-low-thc

Forbes. Is Orally Ingested CBD Actually Absorbed By the Body?
https://www.forbes.com/health/cbd/cbd-absorption/

The Permanente Journal. Mechanism of Action and Pharmacokinetics of Cannabis.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8803256/

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