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All three of these terms are commonly referred to as "cannabinoids," but there are distinct differences between each, as follows:

Endocannabinoids and their receptors are found throughout the body: in the brain, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. In each tissue, the cannabinoid system performs different tasks, but the goal is always the same: homeostasis, the maintenance of a stable internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment. Cannabinoids promote homeostasis at every level of biological life, from the sub-cellular, to the organism, and perhaps to the community and beyond.

Cannabinoid receptors are present throughout the body, embedded in cell membranes, and are believed to be more numerous than any other receptor system. When cannabinoid receptors are stimulated, a variety of physiologic processes ensue. Researchers have identified two cannabinoid receptors: CB1, predominantly present in the nervous system, connective tissues, gonads, glands, and organs; and CB2, predominantly found in the immune system and its associated structures. Many tissues contain both CB1 and CB2 receptors, each linked to a different action. Researchers speculate there may be a third cannabinoid receptor waiting to be discovered.

Endocannabinoids are the substances our bodies naturally make to stimulate these receptors. The two most well understood of these molecules are called anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). They are synthesized on-demand from cell membrane arachidonic acid derivatives, have a local effect and short half-life before being degraded by the enzymes fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL).

Phytocannabinoids are plant substances that stimulate cannabinoid receptors. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the most psychoactive and certainly the most famous of these substances, but other cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) are gaining the interest of researchers due to a variety of healing properties.

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Disclaimer: Clinical research on this topic has been limited because of cannabis being a Schedule I drug, according to the Federal government. This means universities, who are usually the ones responsible for conducting a majority of clinical research, have been prevented from conducting research on this topic because if they do, then they risk losing federal funding. Any universities who are participating in research related to this topic are doing so either (1) with hemp, which only has a maximum of .3% THC, or (2) with cannabis either provided by the federal government, or only grown if a DEA license is obtained and your study is approved by the FDA. According to an article published by the website Popular Science, "When it comes to actually obtaining research-grade marijuana, though, you have to go through the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a process that has proved problematic for some researchers determined to study the potential medical benefits of pot.

If you're going to run a trial to show that marijuana has positive effects, the NIDA essentially is not going to allow it. Both the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians have called for more research into the therapeutic uses of marijuana and for the U.S. government to reconsider its classification as a Schedule I substance. The University of Mississippi grows and harvests cannabis for studies funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, yet because NIDA's congressionally mandated mission is to research the harmful effects of controlled substances and stop drug abuse, the institute isn't interested in helping establish marijuana as a medicine."

According to Leafly, Terpenes are aromatic oils that color cannabis varieties with distinctive flavors like citrus, berry, mint, and pine. Terpenes play a key role in differentiating the effects of various cannabis strains. Some terpenes promote relaxation and stress-relief, while others promote focus and acuity.

  • NY Decriminalized Cannabis in 1977, but loopholes in that law still consider it a misdemeanor if the cannabis is in public sight, so since then over 800,000 New Yorkers, mostly people of color from low income communities, have been arrested for low-level marijuana possession, even though folks across all races consume cannabis at the same rates.
  • Medical Marijuana (Cannabis) is legal, as of 2014 with the Compassionate Care Act, but the program is very limited in what is offered and who qualifies for the program; see below for more information
  • Adult-Use (Recreational) Cannabis is not legal in NY, but legislation outlining an Adult-Use market in NY is anticipated to pass in 2019.
  • NY has an Industrial Hemp Agricultural Pilot Program, under which CBD is produced.

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CBD is "Cannabidiol" and it is a phytocannabinoid, or cannabis compound that has significant medical benefits, but does not make people feel "stoned" and can actually counteract the psychoactivity of THC.

THC is "Tetrahydrocannabinol" and it is a phytocannabinoid, or cannabis compound, that is most famously responsible for the euphoric feeling you get from consuming cannabis.

It's really all about linguistics. "Marijuana" and "cannabis" are used interchangeably. "Hemp" is simply cannabis that contains .3% (or less) THC.

Note, Roc NORML advocates for using the term "cannabis" over "marijuana" because the term "marijuana" is rooted in racism. With that being said, sometimes you will see/hear us use the term "marijuana" when it relates to laws or other commonly used phrases.

As a chapter of NORML, we have adopted NORML's "Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use," in that cannabis consumption is for adults only. It is irresponsible to provide cannabis to children. Many things and activities are suitable for young people, but others absolutely are not. Children do not drive cars, enter into contracts, or marry, and they must not use drugs. As it is unrealistic to demand lifetime abstinence from cars, contracts and marriage, however, it is unrealistic to expect lifetime abstinence from all intoxicants, including alcohol. Rather, our expectation and hope for young people is that they grow up to be responsible adults. Our obligation to them is to demonstrate what that means. (This provision does not apply to the physician supervised and recommended use of medical cannabis by patients of any age.)

As a chapter of NORML, we have adopted NORML's "Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use," in that the responsible cannabis consumer does not operate a motor vehicle or other dangerous machinery while impaired by cannabis, nor (like other responsible citizens) while impaired by any other substance or condition, including some medicines and fatigue.

Although cannabis is said by most experts to be safer than alcohol and many prescription drugs with motorists, responsible cannabis consumers never operate motor vehicles in an impaired condition. Public safety demands not only that impaired drivers be taken off the road, but that objective measures of impairment be developed and used, rather than chemical testing.

NYS Medical Marijuana Program FAQs

DISCLAIMER: Roc NORML has received consistent feedback from patients currently enrolled in the NY medical marijuana program that it lacks accessibility, transparency, and affordability. If you don’t see an answer to your question below or on the NYS DOH website, please reach out Roc NORML for assistance finding the information you’re looking for; the following information is directly from the NYS DOH website.

Patients seeking access to medical marijuana should first go to their treating practitioner. If a patient's treating practitioner is not already registered with the Department to certify patients for medical marijuana, information regarding practitioner registration can be found on the Department's website: Practitioner Education for the Medical Marijuana Program.

Patients may access a list of registered practitioners by clicking on the "Looking for a Registered Practitioner" button on the Medical Marijuana Program website's home page. A patient's treating practitioner can also make a referral to a registered practitioner using the Medical Marijuana Data Management System located within the Department's Health Commerce System (HCS).

Yes, the Commissioner of Health may add other conditions to the list.

  • Certified patients and designated caregivers must always carry their registry ID card whenever they possess approved medical marijuana products.
  • Medical marijuana products may not be transported outside of New York State.
  • New York State does not accept certifications or registry ID cards from other states.
  • A certified patient or designated caregiver who has been issued a registry ID card must notify the Medical Marijuana Program of any change in his or her name, address, or if he or she no longer has the serious condition noted on the card within ten (10) business days of such change.

You are potentially eligible for medical marijuana if you have been diagnosed with one or more of the following severe debilitating or life threatening conditions: cancer, HIV infection or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury with spasticity, epilepsy, inflammatory bowel disease, neuropathy, Huntington's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder or chronic pain (as defined by 10 NYCRR ยง1004.2(a)(8)(xi)), or any condition for which an opioid could be prescribed (provided that the precise underlying condition is expressly stated on the patient's certification). The severe debilitating or life threatening condition must also be accompanied by one or more of the following associated or complicating conditions: cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe or persistent muscle spasms, PTSD or opioid use disorder (only if enrolled in a treatment program certified pursuant to Article 32 of the Mental Hygiene Law).

The Commissioner must approve any form of medical marijuana. Approved forms include, but are not limited to: solid or semi-solid dosage forms (such as capsules, tablets, and lozenges), metered liquid or oil preparations (for vaporization or oral administration), metered ground plant preparations, and topicals and transdermal patches. Under the law, smoking is not permitted and the regulations prohibit edibles. Please contact the registered organization directly to find out more about the products they have available.

The patient's certifying practitioner must include the following information on the patient's certification: the authorized brand and form of the approved medical marijuana, the administration method, and any limitations on the use of approved medical marijuana product. If a practitioner has a recommendation regarding dosage, it should also be included on the certification, although a recommendation on dosage is not required. Moreover, the total amount of product that may be dispensed may not exceed a thirty-day supply.

The first step is speaking with your treating practitioner about whether the medical use of marijuana is appropriate for your condition. If your practitioner determines it is an appropriate treatment for you and he or she is registered with the New York State Department of Health's Medical Marijuana Program, he or she may issue you a certification for medical marijuana.

You have protections under the Compassionate Care Act that in most cases prohibit employers from firing your or denying you employment for failing a drug test by testing positive for cannabis. If you are a registered patient in the NY medical marijuana program and were terminated for simply failing a drug test, you should seek legal advice, and can reach out to Roc NORML for more information and referrals.