Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (2022)

Since 2001, medical cannabis has been a legal treatment option in Canada for certain health conditions, including arthritis. While cannabis can’t cure arthritis or slow disease progression, some people report that it helps to alleviate their symptoms.

"Medical cannabis" refers to any products made from cannabis or its active ingredients intended for health purposes. In Canada, the supply of medical cannabis is controlled by the federal government, which regulates production and distribution. While non-medicinal cannabis is now legal in Canada and may come from similar or the same plant sources as medical cannabis, the Arthritis Society recommends obtaining a document for medical cannabis from an authorized healthcare professional. Self-medicating with recreational cannabis is not a safe substitute for supervised care by a doctor or nurse practitioner. Not sure how to bring up the subject with your doctor? Visit our Talking to Your Doctor About Medical Cannabis resource.

In accordance with the guidelines of the Canadian Rheumatology Association, medical cannabis should not be used to treat rheumatology patients under the age of 25.

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (1)

What is Medical Cannabis?

Cannabis is a flowering plant that produces chemicals called cannabinoids, which can be used to treat the symptoms of a number of conditions, including arthritis. These chemicals interact with our body’s endocannabinoid system that can affect pain, inflammation, immune function, appetite, heart function, memory, and mood.

While medical cannabis can’t cure arthritis or slow disease progression, there are studies that demonstrate it can help relieve arthritis pain as well as address sleep issues and anxiety.

Medical Cannabisvs.Recreational Cannabis
Used to address symptoms of various health conditionsUsed for non-medicinal purposes
Dosing can be indicated so that there is little to no euphoric effect (“high”)Generally used for euphoric effect (“high”)
Requires medical document (authorization)Not a safe substitute for supervised care
Accessed directly from a Health Canada Licensed Producer or grown by consumerAccessed from an authorized recreational cannabis retailer or grown by consumer
Infographic [PDF] 806 kBOnline Module

This resource was reviewed in November 2019 with expert advice from:

Dr. Carolina Landolt-Marticorena, MD, PhD, FRCPC
Summertree Medical Clinic
Runnymede Healthcare Centre

Scientific Advisor
MediPharm Labs

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (2)

(Video) Marijuana THC vs CBD, CBG, CBN: What’s the difference? What are health benefits of each?


CBD and THC are the key active ingredients in medical cannabis.

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (3)CBD, or cannabidiol, is a non-euphoric chemical, which means it will not make you feel “high” and can even help counteract some of the negative effects of THC when they are used together. CBD has been used to treat inflammation and chronic pain, along with managing anxiety and insomnia.

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (4)THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical that can cause a “high” or intoxicated feeling when taken in sufficient doses, but in small doses it can be helpful for some symptoms. THC can help decrease pain, anxiety, tension and nausea. When taken in higher doses, it can heighten sensory perceptions, alter sense of time, and impact motor control. High doses of THC may also bring feelings of anxiety and paranoia for some people.

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (5)Medical cannabis products can contain primarily CBD, primarily THC, or a balance of the two. It’s recommended that individuals with arthritis start with CBD-dominant products and introduce THC in small amounts if needed.

To learn more about CBD and THC, visit our online module:

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Using Medical Cannabis

Medical cannabis can be ingested, inhaled, applied topically as a cream, or dissolved as a spray. Depending on the form of medical cannabis, the rate at which you experience its effects can vary.

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (7)Cannabis Oil:
Cannabis oil is diluted with a carrier oil, such as sunflower or avocado oil, and is used with a dropper or put into a capsule. The oil can be mixed with food or drink or placed directly under the tongue, where it is held for one minute to facilitate transfer into the blood stream.

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (8)Sprays:
Sprays are applied under the tongue and absorbed into the bloodstream.

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (9)Topical Creams:
Topical creams can be applied directly on the skin and are absorbed into the blood stream. Topical creams can have pain-relieving effects at the site of application.

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (10)Cannabis-infused foods:
Also known as edibles. These include any food products created using cannabis, such as items made with cooking fats infused with cannabis (i.e. olive oil, coconut oil, butter). These are processed by your body’s digestion system and take up to 2 hours to reach maximum effect. The effects of edible cannabis also last longer.

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (11)Inhaled-vaporizers, e-cigarettes, joint:
Dried cannabis needs to be heated in order for CBD and THC to take effect. Vaporizers and e-cigarettes use heating elements that can activate the chemicals. Smoking medical cannabis is not recommended.

If you are using medical cannabis for the first time, it’s recommended to start with a CBD-dominant product at the lowest dose, and gradually increase your dosage until your symptom needs are met. Capsules and oil make it easier to accurately track dosage and find the lowest dose for symptom management.

(Video) Medical Marijuana (THC and CBD) Pharmacology, Regulation, and Pharmacy Considerations

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (12)For cannabis-infused foods, it’s important to exercise caution and take small amounts with lower doses of THC, as the effects of edibles can be stronger than other forms of cannabis and may result in more pronounced side effects.

To learn more about delivery methods of medical cannabis, visit our online learning module:

Medical Cannabis for Arthritis – Forms of Medical Cannabis

This tracker will help you monitor the effectsof your medical cannabis treatment and communicate with your doctor about what’s working and what isn’t:

Medical Cannabis Treatment Tracker [PDF 128kb]

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (13)


When taken in sufficient doses, THC has side effects that impact sensory processing, cognition and fine motor coordination. It can also cause anxiety and panic attacks in some people.

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (14)People who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant or are breastfeeding should not use cannabis.

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (15)The federal government has established legal limits for blood THC content. Individuals should not drive after using cannabis. The amount of time that is needed before driving depends on the method of administration and the THC content of the cannabis that has been used.

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (16)Cannabis use can be harmful for individuals with a personal or family history of psychotic illness, substance use disorder or suicidal thoughts.

Medical Cannabis - CBD & THC (17)People under 25, individuals who have had a substance use disorder, and those who use THC frequently are at a higher risk of developing a cannabis use disorder (cannabis addiction).

To learn more about risks, visit our online learning module:

Medical Cannabis for Arthritis – Risks

  • Important Notes
    • While medical cannabis is legal for use in Canada with a physician's order, medical cannabis is not a Health Canada-approved treatment. To date, there is limited clinical evidence on the relative benefits and risks of medical cannabis on the treatment of arthritis.
    • People under the age of 25 are at an increased risk of adverse effects from cannabis use, including cognitive problems from THC-dominant products. The Canadian Rheumatology Association advises against the use of medical cannabis by rheumatology patients under the age of 25.
    • The information found here is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute the advice of a physician. Consult your physician or other relevant health professional for specific information on personal health matters to ensure that your individual circumstances are considered.
    • As of October 17, 2018, recreational cannabis is legal in Canada. Self-medicating with recreational cannabis is not a safe substitute for receiving medical cannabis from a licensed seller under the direction of your healthcare provider.
    • The Arthritis Society is a leading advocate for research into the use of cannabis for medical purposes, and for the needs of people who use cannabis for medical purposes. For more information, visit our medical cannabis advocacy page.
    (Video) The Efficacy of High CBD Low THC for Better Outcomes in Medical Marijuana

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Accessing Medical Cannabis

Medical Cannabis: A Guide to Access

This guide is intended for adults only. The Arthritis Society does not endorse or recommend medical cannabis.

This guide has been created for educational purposes to provide information about medical cannabis as a potential treatment option for arthritis symptoms.

Medical Cannabis: A Guide to Access [PDF 3.2MB]

The Cannabis Regulations – specifically Part 14: Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes sets the rules for how patients can access medical cannabis in Canada. Cannabis Laws and Regulations set the rules for recreational cannabis access and use in Canada.

To learn more about accessing medical cannabis, visit our online learning module:

Medical Cannabis for Arthritis – Accessing Medical Cannabis

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Our Position

Our Position on Medical Cannabis

For people living with chronic pain, the options for medication to assist with pain management are limited, and each has its drawbacks. For these people, medical cannabis offers a potential alternative to traditional pharmaceuticals such as NSAIDs, acetaminophen and opioids. However, there are many unanswered questions about the use of medical cannabis to treat arthritis symptoms, and physicians have received no formal guidelines about when and how to authorize cannabis for medical purposes.

To address this gap, the Arthritis Society is funding research into the use of medical cannabis for treatment of arthritis symptoms, and is leading a coalition of voices from across the Canadian health care sector in calling for more investment in medical cannabis research. At the same time, we are working to ensure that the process by which Canadians access this treatment option is fair, reliable, safe and affordable.

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Research and Reports

The Arthritis Society has been involved in discussions and research around medical cannabis as a treatment option for arthritis symptoms. The videos and resources below provide highlights and insight from this past work.

  • The Science of Medical Cannabis for Arthritis

    Quebec Forum on Arthritis 2016
    Two thirds of Canadians taking medical cannabis are doing so to help ease the pain of arthritis. What does this mean for you? Join Dr. Jason McDougall (Dalhousie) and Dr. Mark Ware (McGill) to discuss the science and clinical practice of using medical cannabis for arthritis: what it does, how you might access it through your doctor, what some of the questions are, and how research will seek to answer those questions.

  • What people with arthritis need to know

    Dr. Jason McDougall of Dalhousie University, who is embarking on a three-year investigation of medical cannabis, answers your commonly asked questions.

  • Clearing the Air – Roundtable report on research priorities for medical cannabis

    Clearing the Air: Roundtable Report

    Summary Report of the Medical Cannabis Research Roundtable, urging Federal investment in medical cannabis research and clinical trials.

(Video) Introduction to Medical Cannabis by Dr. Stacy D'Andre

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Online Learning Module

Our online learning module, “Understanding Medical Cannabis for Arthritis”, is designed to provide you with reliable, evidence-based information about medical cannabis to help you make informed choices about your arthritis care.

(Video) Medical Cannabis: What people with arthritis need to know

Learn More


What's better for pain CBD or THC? ›

It seems to show promise in reducing inflammation, which could provide pain relief from autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, says Dr. Bryan. The bottom line: THC seems to have a greater effect on the way the mind perceives pain, whereas CBD may work to ease pain at the local source.

What illness qualifies for medical Marijuanas? ›

What conditions can cannabis-based medicines be used to treat?
  • Adults with nausea or vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
  • People with muscle stiffness and spasms caused by multiple sclerosis (MS).
  • Children and adults with rare, severe forms of epilepsy.
28 Apr 2021

Will CBD oil show up on a drug test? ›

Long story short, yes, CBD may yield a positive result on a drug test. There are certain actions you can take to determine whether the product you're buying contains the lowest amount of THC possible, but there's no guarantee that the labeling is accurate due to the lack of regulation of CBD products.

How long does 25 mg of CBD stay in your system? ›

In fact, a 2020 study in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology found people who consumed a single dose of a standardized CBD formulation had detectable levels of CBD in their urine for four to five days after ingestion.

Is medical Marijuanas covered by insurance? ›

Although health insurance does not cover medical marijuana, the majority of states have legalized medical marijuana. So while your health insurance won't pay the bill, you likely have access to medical marijuana if you need it.

What types of medical issues is CBD believed to treat? ›

It is most commonly used to treat chronic pain, anxiety, inflammation, and insomnia. One study showed that CBD may relieve pain by affecting receptors of the endocannabinoid system, which helps regulate pain, mood, and memory, in addition to many other physiological and cognitive functions.

What are the different types of medical Marijuanas? ›

There are two main types (species) of plants used as medical marijuana: Sativa and Indica.

Does CBD oil Help Arthritis pain? ›

Under the guidance of a medical professional, CBD may be helpful in temporarily relieving inflammation and pain associated with arthritis. CBD should not be used as a substitute for disease-modifying treatments or lifestyle modifications recommended by a doctor.

Do CBD gummies work for pain? ›

CBD may help to reduce pain by acting on a variety of biological processes in the body. CBD has been shown to work as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and analgesic. CBD may also reduce the anxiety that people living with chronic pain often experience.

How long after taking CBD oil Can I drink water? ›

if you vape cbd, consume it orally, or use it topically, it is completely fine to drink water normally without disrupting absorption. however, if cbd is consumed sublingually via a tincture, you should give the tincture at least 30-60 seconds for full absorption before drinking anything.

Is CBD covered by insurance? ›

The government doesn't ban CBD products but insurance companies won't reimburse the costs incurred for using them for medical purposes. So even if physicians acknowledge the health benefits of CBD oil and prescribe it to their patients, insurance policies are not willing to cover the cost needed to procure it.

How much does medical Marijuanas cost in NY? ›

What does a medical marijuana card cost in your state?
New JerseyRecreational and medicinal allowed$100
New MexicoMedicinal onlyNo fee
New YorkRecreational and medicinal allowed$50 (the fee is currently waived by the Department of Health as of July 2021)
North CarolinaFully IllegalFully Illegal
47 more rows
17 Jul 2021

How much does medical Marijuanas cost in CT? ›

For the initial evaluation fee of most providers in CT, the cost is between $175 and $200 for the medical marijuana program. Our fee for first-time patients is $175 and the fee for veterans is $150.

Does CBD affect the brain? ›

Conclusion: Neuroimaging studies have shown that acute CBD induces significant alterations in brain activity and connectivity patterns during resting state and performance of cognitive tasks in both healthy volunteers and patients with a psychiatric disorder.

Can you take CBD with blood pressure medication? ›

For some people, particularly those taking certain prescription medications, using CBD is risky. It has anticoagulant effects that can thin blood; it can also modestly lower blood pressure. These effects could be dangerous for people with certain medical conditions.

Does CBD reduce inflammation or just pain? ›

CBD may help to reduce pain by acting on a variety of biological processes in the body. CBD has been shown to work as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and analgesic. CBD may also reduce the anxiety that people living with chronic pain often experience.

Does CBD help with joint pain? ›

A 2017 study found that CBD might be a safe and useful treatment option for joint pain associated with osteoarthritis. A 2016 study found that the topical application of CBD had the potential to relieve pain and inflammation associated with arthritis.

Does CBD oil help with inflammation and pain? ›

A 2020 review reports that CBD could have benefits for relieving chronic pain, improving sleep, and reducing inflammation, but that these effects are condition-specific. More evidence is needed to determine the therapeutic potential of CBD and to determine safe and effective dosages for pain.

What medications should not be taken with CBD? ›

CBD can alter the effects of other drugs
  • a common blood thinner, warfarin.
  • a heart rhythm medication, amiodarone.
  • a thyroid medication, levothyroxine.
  • several medications for seizure, including clobazam, lamotrigine, and valproate.
11 Jan 2021

What are three of the newest drugs for arthritis pain? ›

The newest drugs for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis are the Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, which are FDA approved under the brand names Rinvoq, Olumiant, and Xeljanz.

Does CBD affect your eyes? ›

cannabinoid in marijuana. pressure of the eye (IOP) and risk of glaucoma. (THC) showed CBD spikes the pressure in the eye. Ciliary muscle involved in the flow in and out off fluid, influencing pressure.


1. How Much Do You Know About Medical Marijuana And CBD? | NBC News Now
(NBC News)
2. Can Veterans Use Marijuana? | VA Benefits & Using Medical Marijuana | CBD, THC, Cannabis | theSITREP
(U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs)
3. Treating PTSD with CBD | Medical Cannabis Summit
(Med-Tech World)
4. CBD Oil and Medical Marijuana for Parkinson's Disease
(Invigorate Physical Therapy and Wellness)
5. Medical Marijuana For Kids With Severe Conditions? Attitudes May Be Shifting
6. Doctors break down difference between CBD and THC

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