What's the Difference Between Marinol (Dronabinol) And Medical Marijuana?

There are many differences between the natural marijuana plant (cannabis) and the synthetic cannabinoid Marinol. The largest difference is that marijuana is illegal under federal law— even for medicinal uses. Marinol is legally prescribed in any state. Cannabis laws vary by state; most states have some form of medical marijuana legalization.

Marinol is a prescription drug that contains the active ingredient dronabinol. Dronabinol is a synthetic form of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the main psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant. It provides the "high" some users seek from cannabis.

In contrast, cannabidiol (CBD) is the non-psychoactive ingredient in the marijuana plant. Along with psychoactive effects, THC has powerful medicinal capabilities. This is why scientists created Marinol as a legal alternative to cannabis in the United States.

Where Is Marinol Legal?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Marinol with dronabinol for medical use in 1985. It replaced the discontinued drug Cesamet. The FDA-approved drug is legal in all 50 states, as opposed to cannabis, an illegal controlled substance under federal law. Even if cannabis is legal in a state, cannabis use is not legal under federal law.

Because it is a regulated pharmaceutical drug, you need a prescription to buy and use Marinol. It is against the law to sell or give Marinol away or to use the drug without a prescription. The improper possession or distribution of prescription drugs can result in criminal charges.

How Is Marinol Used?

The FDA approved Marinol with dronabinol to treat vomiting and nausea due to cancer chemotherapy. It is also approved for weight loss-related anorexia and loss of appetite in AIDS patients. Off-label like Sativex and clinical trial use for Marinol include treatment for medical conditions such as:

  • Fibromyalgia pain
  • Glaucoma-related eye pressure
  • Menstrual migraines
  • Postoperative nausea and vomiting
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Muscle spasticity related to multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Neuropathic chronic pain
  • Epilepsy

Marinol is often prescribed to cancer patients to help ease the side effects of chemotherapy. Because Marinol contains the psychoactive ingredient THC, it can also cause serious side effects. Side effects include drowsiness, blood pressure issues, and even psychosis, especially in people with a history of mental illness. Talk to a doctor immediately about any adverse effects while taking Marinol.

The Differences Between Medical Marijuana and Marinol

Marinol is a Schedule III drug, which means the government has determined that dependency on it is a low to moderate risk. Marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug. This means the government determined it has a high risk of drug abuse. It is not accepted for medical use even if classified as medical marijuana.

Beyond the law, other differences include:

  • THC occurs naturally in cannabis, while Marinol contains a form of synthetic THC called Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol
  • Marinol only comes in pill form or in an oral solution called Syndros. The pill form contains sesame oil, and the oral solution contains alcohol. Medical marijuana is available to eat, inhale, smoke, or apply to the skin.
  • Cannabis contains cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and THC. Marinol only contains THC
  • The absorption rate of marijuana is faster than Marinol. Marinol remains in the blood longer than marijuana
  • A 2013 study suggested that taking THC in pill form could be more effective at pain relief than smoking THC
  • Marinol and generic dronabinol contain a higher concentration of THC. It is generally believed they have more intense side effects than natural cannabis

Making a Choice Between Marinol and Marijuana

People with a medical need who live in a state that has approved medical cannabis should weigh the potential benefits and effects of marijuana in cannabis and Marinol. Cannabis and cannabinoids affect people differently. Talk to a doctor who understands cannabis, cannabinoids, and dronabinol.

If medical cannabis use interests you, look at your state's medical marijuana laws to see if it is an option. Next, consult your physician for more information on the benefits and effects of Marinol versus medical marijuana.

Help from an attorney well-versed in cannabis law is crucial to protect your business and stay out of trouble with the federal government.

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Restrictive federal laws and ever-changing state laws make the marijuana industry a dynamic environment for cannabis business owners. Before you open a cannabis business, make sure it is legal in your state, and follow your state laws. Once you decide on an LLC, S-corp, or C-corp business, you can register your business entity online using DIY business formation forms.

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