Patient Education - Chicago Medicinal Marijuana

Cannabis, also referred to as marijuana, is a plant that has been used for many different purposes for thousands of years. Medicinally, the mature plant’s flowers and leaves have been used in a variety of forms. They contain a resin filled with terpenes and cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD.

THC, or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is the primary cannabinoid responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana-- put more simply, THC is what gets users “high.” Cannabidiol, or CBD, is non-psychoactive and works as a powerful anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antidepressant, among other benefits. CBD does not act on the same pathways as THC and therefore does not cause a “high.”

Cannabis Strains and their Uses

Chicago medical marijuana is available in more than one hundred varieties, all of which offer unique combinations of effects. Due to this variety, physicians may recommend that their patients test different types to find the one that most suits their needs.

There are four main categories of strains: sativa, indica, sativa/indica hybrids, and high-CBD varieties which are usually indica derivatives. The particular concentration of each cannabinoid is different by plant and strain. It is important to note that much of the information on strain-specific effects is anecdotal. Scientific studies are currently being designed that will shed new light on the effects of different strains. As of now, the following are generally-accepted strain-specific effects.


The sativa strain, native to tropical climates, is tall and tree-like with thin leaves. Sativa strains tend to mentally stimulate and energize the patient, making it suitable for use during daytime hours. Patients may also experience feelings of euphoria when taking sativa cannabis.  The sativa strain is thought to be helpful for treating problems such as:

  • General Abdominal Complaints
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of Appetite


The indica strain was first grown in temperate climates. Indica strains are shorter and have broader leaves than their sativa counterparts. Those who take an indica strain may experience a sedated or relaxed feeling, so patients usually get the best results when taking it at night. Indica can be very useful in treating:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • General Pain
  • Muscle Spasms

Sativa/Indica Hybrids

The most commonly used cannabis strains are sativa/indica hybrids. Growers created various combinations to give medical cannabis patients the benefits of both sativa and indica for optimal results. Each hybrid is typically either a sativa or indica dominant crossbreed. Hybrids tend to work well for treating:

  • Lack of Appetite
  • Nausea
  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Insomnia
  • Depression

High CBD

Some cannabis strains have been laboratory tested and were found to have high cannabidiol, or CBD, levels. High-CBD strains offer several health benefits without a large degree of psychoactive effects, allowing patients to work and drive while taking therapeutic doses. Sometimes sold as cannabis oil in Illinois, medicinal high-CBD strains are an excellent option for people who need to treat:

  • Anxiety
  • Inflammation
  • General Pain
  • Seizures

Products and Consumption Methods

There are multiple dosage methods for cannabis usage including inhalation, ingestion, and topical applications. Your Chicago dispensary will advise you that each method produces a unique medicinal effect. No matter which method you choose, when using medical cannabis, it is best to start small and go slow.

The fundamental principle for dosing medical marijuana is to start with a low dose and to go slow in taking more until the effect of the first dose is fully realized. The effects of cannabis are not always immediately felt.  Starting low and going slow allows patients to accommodate for the different experiences they may have.

Cannabis has a wide margin of safety, and there is a very limited risk of overdose. Dosage varies widely among patients, even when treating the same condition, so many patients experiment to find the dose that is right for them. Caution is warranted until a patient fully understands the effect the cannabis may have on them. Many factors impact the effect, including:

  • Dosage
  • Strain Used
  • Method of Consumption
  • Environment/Setting
  • Experience/History of Cannabis Use
  • Biochemistry
  • Mindset or Mood
  • Nutrition or Diet


  • Takes Effect in 1 to 5 Minutes
  • Effects Last 1 to 4 Hours

Many patients choose to inhale cannabis via a rolled joint, pipe, or vaporizer because these dosage methods are convenient and fast acting. However, respiratory tract irritation may be a short-term side effect. Current research finds that the long-term side effects of smoking cannabis are minor. Habitual and heavy smoking of cannabis may cause phlegm production, bronchitis, and chronic coughing.

Cannabis smoke is known to contain substances that may cause cancer, called carcinogens. However, when studied at a molecular and cellular level, the cannabinoids in marijuana are shown to lower the effect of the smoke’s carcinogens, and no verified cases of lung cancer or other lung diseases have been found in cannabis smokers.

Kief and hashish (or hash) are two popular cannabis products. Kief is a powdered substance made from the resin glands of marijuana plants. Kief is compressed to create hash. Hash has a paste-like texture and a THC content that ranges from 15 to 70 percent. Kief and hash may be inhaled or ingested.

Extracted from mature cannabis foliage, hash oil is a combination of the resin and other essential oils. Hash oil ranges in THC content from 30 to 90 percent. This cannabis oil in Illinois can be added to food or smoked in a joint, pipe, or specialty hash pipe.


  • Takes Effect in 1-2 Hours
  • Effects Last 6-8 Hours

Cannabinoids reach maximum potency when heated, and they are fat-soluble. Therefore, cannabis may be added to many drinks and foods. Heat is necessary to create active THC and CBD. Since ingested cannabis is processed by the body’s liver, patients may experience stronger and longer-lasting psychoactive effects-- especially when using products high in THC. The most common ways to ingest cannabis are through edibles, cannabis butter, cannabis oil, and cannabis beverages.

Edibles come in many different forms, including cookies, gummies, brownies, chocolate bars, granola and more. These can be purchased pre-made at our Chicago dispensary, or you can make them at home using cannabis butter or cannabis oil, which is a blend of cooking oil and cannabinoid resins. Cannabis beverages include coffee and tea. Since the cannabis resins are not soluble in water, some form of oil must be added to coffee or tea to ensure that the resins dissolve in the beverage.

Another ingestion method is via a cannabis tincture. As concentrated cannabis liquids, cannabis tinctures take effect in 5 to 30 minutes with effects lasting 1 to 6 hours. The fastest way to introduce a cannabis tincture to the body is by holding a few drops under the tongue for one minute before swallowing the liquid. This product has a low odor, and it is easy to dose. Tinctures also come in sublingual sprays. Medical cannabis is also available in pills and sprays, with effects that are very similar to those resulting from the preparations above.


  • Takes Effect in Varying Times
  • Effects Last for Varying Times

The cannabis plant and its oil extracts can be added to lotions, salves, and balms to make topical products. Topical cannabis does not create psychoactive effects in patients. These products are effective at reducing pain and inflammation. Topical cannabis can treat numerous ailments, such as:

  • Allergic Skin Reactions
  • Inflammation
  • Muscle Strains
  • Post-Herpetic Neuralgia
  • Swelling

Additional Notes

Although cannabis has an extraordinary record of safe and effective use, it is important to use as little as is needed to achieve the medical benefits for which your doctor recommended it. Less may well be more when using medical cannabis. Bear in mind that cannabis has a biphasic dose-response curve, which means that symptoms that are improved by using cannabis at low doses may be exacerbated when it is utilized in high doses. Nausea is a good example of this. At small doses, medicinal marijuana can prevent nausea, but in high doses, it can create nausea or make it worse.

Storing Medical Cannabis

Proper storage of medical cannabis is an absolute must to maintain potency. The freshness and potency of your medical cannabis depends upon these factors: handling, light, air, heat, and moisture.

First, too much handling of the medical cannabis will make its trichomes fall off. Minimize handling to only the time of consumption to maintain its potency. Next, trichomes can be destroyed by lights, so it is important to store your medical cannabis in a dark place. Since medical cannabis dries out when exposed to the air, it should be kept in an airtight container. Finally, heat will also dry out the cannabis and moisture can promote dangerous bacteria growth, so medical marijuana must be stored in a cool, dry environment.

One of the best storage methods for medical marijuana is an airtight mason jar with a good seal. If you do not have access to a jar and must use a bag, the best suggestion is to put medical cannabis in a brown paper bag and then in a plastic bag. It is also helpful to remove as much air as possible from the bags before storing.

Store your medical cannabis jar in a cool, dark place. Medical cannabis can be stored in the refrigerator, but the freezer is not recommended. The freezer will freeze your Chicago medicinal marijuana and make the trichomes fragile, thus making it easier for them to fall off. Another suggestion is to create both short and long-term storage containers for your medical cannabis. Separate your regular daily supply from your long-term supply.

Medical Cannabis Safety and Resources

Additional safety and responsible cannabis use resources from the Illinois Department of Public Health can be found at the links below.

Contact our legal Chicago marijuana dispensary for more information on safe medical cannabis use. We are located in Chicago, Illinois, and serve patients throughout Chicagoland.