A Quick Guide to Sensible Medical Marijuana Use for Cancer Patients

PUBLISHED: Sunday, November 29, 2020

\usda ncsl safeaccessnow dea dfcr patientsoutoftime mpp cancer
A Quick Guide to Sensible Medical Marijuana Use for Cancer Patients

A Quick Guide to Sensible Medical Marijuana Use for Cancer Patients

The health benefits of medical marijuana are recognized in the United States. This once-illegal plant-based medicine is legal for medical and recreational use in 33 states and counting. Many medical experts recommend its use for several health conditions, including cancer.

This quick guide is useful for cancer patients looking to manage pain and other symptoms using therapeutic cannabis.

What Is Medical Marijuana?

Medical marijuana is a type of herbal medication from the flowering plant Cannabis. There are three distinct plant varieties, including Sativa, Indica, and Ruderalis. Hybrids of Sativa and Indica are mostly used today, and there are thousands of strains available on the market from these three varieties.

There are many compounds in cannabis, but two of the most active and familiar ones are THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (Cannabidiol). THC is a mind-altering ingredient that makes users go "high" while CBD is known for its health benefits and mainly used for medical cannabis.

CBD and THC have, more or less, the same medical benefits, but the latter can cause euphoric side effects. More specifically, CBD has been found to improve nausea, migraines, inflammation, anxiety, and helps relieve convulsions. THC, on the other hand, can help conditions including glaucoma, pain, insomnia, and low appetite.

Medical marijuana strains that use both CBD and THC in differing concentrations produce different effects.


CBD has fewer side effects compared to the psychoactive properties found in THC. Further research is needed to verify its medical benefits. Under the 2018 Farm Bill, CBD and hemp products are federally legal as long they contain less than 0.3 percent THC.

To have more THC, you need to get a prescription in states that have legalized medical cannabis or recreational use.

States that have legalized medical cannabis or recreational use

How Does Medical Marijuana Help Cancer Patients?

Some studies have shown that medical marijuana is effective for managing the side effects of cancer treatments like chemotherapy and symptoms in patients. It helps with the following:

Body pain - Each person's experience with cancer treatments like chemotherapy is different and pain is a common side effect. There are many types of pain a patient could experience, including muscle and stomach pain, headaches, and neuropathy or nerve damage in the hands and feet. Medical cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties that can help ease the pain.

Nausea and vomiting - The feeling of being sick to the stomach and throwing up are common side effects of chemotherapy. There are many medications that can be given to the patient before and after each treatment session to prevent nausea and vomiting, but medical marijuana has been proven to be effective as well.

Loss of appetite - Patients who undergo treatment may eat less than usual, not feel hungry, or feel full after a small meal. A balanced diet is important to replenish lost nutrients, muscle mass, and strength. Marijuana has been shown to help stimulate the appetite.

Becoming a Medical Cannabis Patient

Those who are considering medical cannabis should find out about its laws where they live. Always ask the opinion of your health care team if medical marijuana is a good option for your specific condition. Since your doctor knows about your health history, it is helpful to disclose all drugs and supplements you are currently taking.

The information you disclose will help narrow down the form and strain of marijuana that’s right for you.

Consulting a Doctor About Cannabis Therapeutics

Depending on which state, patients need to have a qualifying condition and be certified to receive medical marijuana. Talk to your health provider to ask about the certification process. Only registered doctors and nurse practitioners can certify patients.

Obtaining a Registry Card

Applicants with eligible conditions can register as a user if their state allows it. Once granted, the medical marijuana card is released by the Public Health Department or Human Resources Department in the patient's state. It is valid for up to a year, and when it expires, the card can be renewed again if the patient's medical documents are still valid.

The card enables the recipient access to state-approved dispensaries, health clinics, and wellness centers.

Here is a quick guide on how to obtain a medical marijuana card:

  1. Find out if your area has a medical marijuana program. Check for up-to-date information about such programs in each state using the Safe Access website.
  2. Gather medical records pertaining to the relevant disability, injury, or illness that would be improved with the use of cannabis. Prepare the approved recommendation signed by your physician.
  3. Prepare identification, including passport, proof of state residency, and a driver's license. Most states will look for proof of where the patient lives to grant the medical marijuana card.
  4. Check for additional requirements or restrictions that are unique in your state's program. Some states may require patients to be 18 or older or not working in particular fields like heavy machine operation where using medical pot could endanger their lives and others.

Medical Marijuana Laws - Knowing Your Rights

With the wide usage, possession, and cultivation of marijuana, medical or otherwise, in the United States, it is still illegal under federal law. According to the federal Controlled Substances Act, cannabis is classified as a "Schedule I drug," which means it can be abused and lacks safety standards even if used under medical supervision.

Having a medical marijuana card protects users from civil and criminal penalties depending on the state where they live. It is advised to learn about laws and offenses to avoid penalties, fines, or even jail. The best scenario is to use cannabis in the safety and confines of the home, but it is also essential to know your legal rights.

  1. Always know the laws and updates regarding the use and possession of medical cannabis in your state. Do not hesitate to ask questions of the state health department.
  2. Follow the marijuana prescription as instructed by your doctor. Talk to your doctor for concerns or if there are changes needed.
  3. Inform family, employers, and other people about your status as a medical marijuana patient.
  4. Keep your marijuana card on you at all times.
  5. Never share your medical cannabis with anyone or take someone else’s.

Quick Guideline to Sensible Medical Cannabis Use

While cannabis is from the same species of plant, its varieties have different effects, which are as follows:

Sensible Medical Cannabis Use

Most marijuana strains are hybrids or a cross between sativa and indica. Either compound may be isolated or added in a specific concentration for specific benefits. Some compounds work better for patients with more specific needs. For example, cancer patients may opt for strains that reduce inflammation and stimulate the appetite without the high.

There are many ways to consume medical marijuana. Each delivery method has its own benefits and drawbacks, and they work differently for everybody. Apart from the method of consumption, there are factors that can impact the effect of the drug, including dosage, the strain of cannabis used, biochemistry, nutrition, history of use, and even mood. Here are popular ways to take medical cannabis:

1. Smoking

Inhalation is one of the most common forms of delivery. Dried cannabis leaves are rolled in a pipe or into a joint and smoked. This method provides quick relief for pain, nausea, and other symptoms.

This might not be favorable for patients with asthma and other respiratory problems.

2. Vaping or Vaporizing

Vaping is a lot like smoking, but the difference is that the process releases marijuana’s chemical compounds at a lower temperature. It delivers instant relief like smoking, but it's not as damaging to the lungs. Vaporizers come in different types, shapes, and sizes, including home units and pen-types that can be carried on-the-go.

They can be expensive, and their batteries need to be recharged.

3. Edibles

Unlike smoking or vaping, edibles go through the digestive system, which means they take a lot longer to kick in. Once the effects are felt, they're longer lasting. Edibles are popular among inexperienced users and dosage is managed more effectively.

Edibles used to be limited to brownies, but nowadays, you can find medical marijuana mixed in lollipops, crackers, chews, and even chocolate bars.

4. Tinctures

Tinctures or sublingual products containing extracted cannabinoids mixed in alcohol and glycerin solution is another way to ingest weed. These products come in a small bottle and are used by spraying or squirting the mixture under the tongue. It is a faster way than edibles and is a method popular among children with special medical needs.

5. Topicals

Marijuana topicals come in the form of sprays, salves, lotions, and ointments. They are meant to be put on the skin intended for pain relief for localized pain and inflammation, including joint pain, tendinitis, and muscle soreness. When applied, the area benefits from the active ingredients of weed without the psychoactive ingredients.

Those with sensitive skin may use an alternative in the form of a patch to avoid irritation.


(n.d.). Farm Bill | USDA. Retrieved June 19, 2020, from https://www.usda.gov/farmbill
(2019, October 17). Marijuana Overview - NCSL.com. Retrieved June 19, 2020, from https://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/marijuana-overview.aspx
(n.d.). Becoming a State-Authorized Patient - Americans for Safe .... Retrieved June 19, 2020, from https://www.safeaccessnow.org/becoming_a_state_authorized_patient
(n.d.). The Controlled Substances Act - DEA. Retrieved June 19, 2020, from https://www.dea.gov/controlled-substances-act