Cannabis 101

The Leafly Starter Pack: A Comprehensive Guide to Medical Cannabis

Published on September 29, 2015 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Medical cannabis is now legal (in various forms) in 39 states. Whether you’ve already received your medical card or if you are considering doing so, this comprehensive guide will tell you all you need to know about purchasing and consuming medical cannabis safely. Check out our stories and videos below, and you can also find a doctor on Leafly.

Table of Contents

Take the First Steps

  • Qualifying conditions for medical cannabis by state
  • How to find a doctor or clinic that specializes in medical marijuana authorizations
  • How to be a responsible medical cannabis patient
  • Welcome to cannabis: 5 basic questions answered
  • Which U.S. states accept out-of-state medical cannabis authorization?

Find the Right Treatment for You

  • Sativa, indica and hybrid: What’s the difference?
  • What are high CBD cannabis strains?
  • High CBD products for medical cannabis patients
  • Go smoke-free: 6 alternate ways to consume cannabis
  • Everything you’ve wanted to know about edibles

Understand the Science Behind Medical Cannabis

  • The anatomy of a cannabis plant
  • What makes a cannabis strain unique?
  • What’s a cannabinoid and why does it matter?
  • Why daily cannabis use is not associated with brain changes
  • Are time-released cannabis pills the future of medical marijuana?
  • Medical marijuana works: a California case study

Discover How Cannabis Can Help with Specific Illnesses

  • Cannabis and arthritic joints
  • Cannabis and ADHD
  • Cannabis and PTSD
  • Cannabis and bladder cancer
  • Cannabis and childhood seizure disorders
  • Cannabis and HIV/AIDS
  • Cannabis and spinal cord injury
  • The best cannabis strains for treating pain
  • The best cannabis strains for anxiety
  • Cannabis strains that are high in CBD
  • Cannabis strains that help induce hunger
  • Cannabis strains to combat Crohn’s disease and colitis

Take the First Steps

Qualifying Conditions for Medical Cannabis by State

map of the United States made out of license plates

Although cannabis remains illegal on the federal level in the U.S., many individual states have legalized cannabis for valid medical purposes. This list provides each state’s qualifying conditions, as well as a rundown of which medical conditions and symptoms must be verified by a physician in order to get authorized as a valid medical marijuana patient.

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How to Find a Doctor or Clinic That Specializes in Medical Marijuana Recommendations

doctor writing on a chart

Once you’ve determined that your condition or illness qualifies you to participate in your state’s medical marijuana program, your next step is to find a doctor or clinic that can provide a recommendation for you. Check out our simple step-by-step guide designed to help you find a physician or clinic that specializes in medical marijuana recommendations.

How to Be a Responsible Medical Cannabis Patient


Forget the stereotypical images of cannabis use from the 60s; cannabis in the 21st century is not what you might expect. Get informed with this handy guide to understanding what it means to be a responsible patient in your state.

Welcome to Cannabis: 5 Basic Questions Answered

cannabis questions

Curious about how cannabis will affect you, or the best and easiest ways to find medical cannabis? Find out the answers to your most basic cannabis questions.

Which U.S. States Accept Out-of-State Medical Cannabis Authorizations?

physician recommendation for medical marijuana

While not all states accept out-of-state authorizations, some do. Check out this list for up-to-date information on which states will accept your valid authorization in case you’re looking to travel soon.

Find the Right Treatment for You

Sativa, Indica, and Hybrid: What’s the Difference Between Cannabis Types?

indica vs. sativa vs. hybrid cannabis types

Cannabis strains are sorted into three categories: sativa, indica, and hybrid. These three groups form the pillars of Leafly’s strain database, and can help consumers know a little more about what to expect when they consume medical cannabis.

What are High CBD Cannabis Strains?

fat cannabis buds

The non-intoxicating, highly therapeutic compound in cannabis known as CBD has sparked a revolution in medical marijuana. But what is CBD exactly and how does it differ from THC?

High CBD Products for Medical Cannabis Patients

cannabis plant against a sunny blue sky

Studies have demonstrated CBD’s benefits in treating everything from epilepsy to anxiety disorders. Find out how CBD can be extracted and processed into a variety of medications for different needs and lifestyles.

Go Smoke-Free: 6 Alternate Ways to Consume Cannabis

different cannabis consumption methods

Not everyone likes to smoke, and those with compromised lung health may not even have the option. If you’re looking for a more health-conscious route to cannabis, consider this list of smoke-free treatments.

Everything You’ve Wanted to Know About Cannabis Edibles

dessert bars

Many of us new to cannabis-infused food fall victim to the same mistake: we eat too much. But when consumed responsibly, edibles can be potent and body-focused, making them perfect for people who suffer from pain, nausea, or lack of appetite. Learn more about cannabis edibles via our easy-to-follow resource.

Understand the Science Behind Medical Cannabis

The Anatomy of a Cannabis Plant

growing cannabis plant

Due to restrictive laws, you may have never seen the sight of a real, living cannabis plant. But when you examine a bud up close, you’ll notice a complex knotting of different parts, from fiery orange hairs to sugary crystals and chunky knobs enveloped by tiny leaves. This guide to cannabis anatomy will break the plant down piece by piece so you’ll know exactly what you’re consuming and why.

What Makes a Cannabis Strain Unique?

cannabis plant up close

Two things influence the structural formation of a cannabis plant: genetics and environment. This guide explores the evolution of the cannabis plant, and unpacks the factors that go into making each plant unique.

What’s a Cannabinoid and Why Does It Matter?

lab test tubes

In this episode of Leafly’s Cannabis 101 series, learn about the chemical compounds that offer the wide array of effects and therapeutic benefits associated with cannabis; primarily, THC and CBD.

Why Daily Cannabis Use is Not Associated with Brain Changes

studying the brain

The Journal of Neuroscience recently released a study showing that daily cannabis use did not induce structural brain changes. The study compared MRI scans of adult consumers against non-users, as well as adolescent users and non-users.

Are Time-Released Cannabis Pills the Future of Medical Marijuana?


An edibles manufacturing company in Boulder, Colorado, designed the industry’s first extended release formula to deliver measured doses of concentrated cannabis over a time frame of up to 12 hours. Find out more about what this means for medical cannabis patients.

Medical Marijuana Works: A California Case Study

jar of cannabis buds

In 2014, the Drug and Alcohol Review released a study which found that 92% of medical cannabis patients in California felt medical cannabis was helpful in treating their disease or illness.

Discover How Cannabis Can Help with Specific Illnesses

Cannabis and Arthritic Joints

outstretched cupped hands

Chronic arthritis affects 52.5 million adults in the United States, and is expected to increase to impact 67 million people by 2030. One alternative for full body pain relief and anti-inflammation is cannabis. Find out more about the states in which arthritis is considered a qualifying condition, as well as how cannabis might be able to help repair arthritic joints.

Cannabis and ADHD


Popular stereotypes might not link cannabis with concentration and cognitive performance. But recent studies exploring cannabis as an alternative treatment for attention deficit disorders found that cannabis can improve ADD/ADHD symptoms. Find out more about how the compounds found in cannabis can potentially correct the dopamine deficiency in ADD patients.

Cannabis and PTSD


Throughout its prohibition, cannabis has been considered a “coping” drug for people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. But while many studies point out the prevalence of cannabis abuse, some emerging research is looking at the question in reverse: could cannabis be effectively treating PTSD?

Cannabis and Bladder Cancer

prescription for medical marijuana

According to a 2015 report from the California Men’s Health Study, cannabis use was associated with a 45% decreased risk of bladder cancer. It’s just one of the findings linking cannabis to the successful slowing of cancer progression.

Cannabis and Childhood Seizure Disorders

hemp seeds

Despite the recent surge of parents reporting that CBD-only treatments have helped control their children’s seizures, physicians are hesitant to recommend this regimen due to the shortage of clinical testing. However, some studies have started to explore the connection. Find out more with this roundup of the information currently available to parents.

Cannabis and HIV/AIDS


Few medical conditions can detract from a person’s sense of health and happiness like HIV/AIDS. In the past few decades, medical marijuana has become an increasingly common prescription for HIV and AIDS patients as they attempt to manage the many devastating symptoms of this disease.

Cannabis and Spinal Cord Injury

X-ray of spinal cord

Spinal cord injuries (SCI) are uncommon but can have permanent and devastating effects on one’s daily life and well-being. Medical marijuana offers patients an alternative regimen that treats the relentless and unpleasant symptoms of spinal cord injuries that can take a toll on life quality.

The Best Cannabis Strains for Treating Pain

Outdoor cannabis grow

Whether you’re looking to help treat generalized pain, inflammation and arthritis, headaches and migraines, cramps, or other types of pain, these strain recommendations might be able to help assuage your pain symptoms.

The Best Cannabis Strains for Anxiety

cannabis leaves

Combat your anxiety with this list of cannabis strains that may help with anxiety symptoms ranging from general anxiety, PTSD, social anxiety, OCD, or insomnia.

Cannabis Strains That are High in CBD

cannabis leaves and a prescription bottle

These cannabis strains have a tendency to contain higher levels of CBD, which can deliver pain relief; anti-inflammatory, anti-epileptic, and anti-nausea effects; strengthen bones; and counteract THC-induced anxiety. Check out our growing list of high-CBD cannabis strains.

Cannabis Strains That Help Induce Hunger

cannabis leaf on a dinner plate

If you’re suffering from a lack of appetite due to nausea, gastrointestinal distress, chemotherapy, or other medical factors, these cannabis strains may help kick-start the rumblings in your stomach and induce hunger.

Cannabis Strains to Help Combat Crohn’s Disease and Colitis

crohn's disease

Cannabis can offer some of the best relief for the most severe Crohn’s and colitis symptoms, such as cramps, nausea, and loss of appetite. Check out this list of cannabis strains that can help alleviate these often debilitating symptoms.

Interested in learning more about the recreational side of cannabis? Check out our Comprehensive Guide to Recreational Cannabis!

The Leafly Starter Pack: A Comprehensive Guide to Recreational Cannabis

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Leafly Staff
Leafly Staff
Leafly is the world’s largest cannabis information resource, empowering people in legal cannabis markets to learn about the right products for their lifestyle and wellness needs. Our team of cannabis professionals collectively share years of experience in all corners of the market, from growing and retail, to science and medicine, to data and technology.
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