difference between medical cannabis, cannabis light and cannabidiol

Therapeutic Cannabis, cannabis light and cannabidiol: let’s get it straight!

Table of Contents

Cannabis light is often associated, in a completely wrong way, to therapeutic cannabis. There are important differences between the two types of products and these differences involve both the composition in itself of the types of cannabis, as well as their uses and the way it is regulated.

If, on the one hand, cannabis is used for medical purposes, on the other, free sales of products containing cannabidiol (CBD) and small percentages of THC has attracted many individuals to use them for the treatment of some symptoms.

All the more it is necessary to bring clarity on what is meant by therapeutic cannabis and by cannabis light.

What is therapeutic cannabis

Therapeutic cannabis are medical drugs containing cannabinoids – active principles of cannabis – which have been developed and approved in a substantial number of countries throughout the world.

The concentrations of the different active principles (the main ones are cannabidiol CBD and Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol THC) contained in cannabis medicines, are calculated with great care.

The ever growing opening towards medical cannabis started from the moment at which scientific research identified and detected the structures of the main cannabinoids and the cannabinoid receptors.

As of today, numerous research studies have been published on the pharmacological activities of cannabis and cannabinoids and on their possible therapeutic application in a multitude of cases. For example, medical cannabis can be prescribed to cancer patients or can be used – due to its indirect action on the central nervous system – to contrast conditions of chronic pain.  

What does the Law say regarding therapeutic cannabis

In Italy the medical use of cannabis is permitted from 2006. Physicians are allowed to prescribe magistral galenical preparations, which are medicines prepared by pharmacists on the basis of indications received from the physician him/herself.

In order to prepare the medical drug, in Italy it is possible to utilise Dronabinol (medical product containing Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol THC) or an active substance with cannabis for medical use, which is obtained from the inflorescences of cannabis and cultivated following the authorisation of a national body for cannabis.

These preparations can be taken in various ways, for example by inhalation or by the oral route. Furthermore, from 2013 in Italy it is possible for neurologists to prescribe a product containing cannabis denominated Sativex which is utilised to reduce the painful spasms in multiple sclerosis.

Until recently, products for the realisation of these preparations were imported due to an agreement with the Dutch Ministry of Health and according to the procedure for importation, provided for by Ministerial Decree no. 11/2/97.

In 2016, our Country started a national production of cannabis for medical use at the  Military Chemical Pharmaceutical Plant of Florence, (SCFM), created through the collaboration between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Defence.

In Italy the prescription of cannabis for medical use occurs according to the Ministerial Decree no. 9/11/2015 and regards the application in chronic pain and in pain associated with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury; in nausea and vomit caused by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, HIV therapies; as an appetite stimulant in cachexia, anorexia, loss of appetite in cancer patients or patients affected by AIDS and in anorexia nervosa; for its hypotensive effect in glaucoma; for the reduction of involuntary movements of the body and the face in the Gilles de la Tourette Syndrome.

Each region has the possibility to legislate autonomously on the matter and it is necessary to take this differentiation into account. The prescriptions are made when conventional or standard therapies are ineffective. The Ministry of Health has drawn up the necessary guide lines and the information for medical doctors and pharmacists is available for the preparation of medical drugs containing cannabis.

The cultivation of hemp, on the other hand, is regulated by the norms contained in Law 242 of 2016  entered into force on January 14, 2017. By means of the circular published on May 23, 2018 by the Ministry for Agricultural Policy, the regulations were clarified with which the norms contained in Law 242 should be implemented. As of today, in Italy, it is possible to cultivate hemp plants with a THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) rate below 0,2% with a tolerance level up to 0,6%.

The farmer hasn’t got any liability if the plants exceed 0,2% of THC, whilst he does in case it exceeds 0,6%, as explained in article 4, comma 5 of law 242. However, Law n. 242 does not regard the legalisation of cannabis directly, nor does it allow the use for recreational purposes, but it’s a law addressing farmers and producers and which has as its objective the promotion of the cultivation of industrial hemp.

What is Cannabis light

With what we call – maybe too simplistically – cannabis light, the entire range of various preparations derived from the dried inflorescences of cannabis is intended, in which the concentration of THC is comprised between 0,2% and 0,6%.

Light is the adjective indicating, in fact, a very low concentration of the active principle which is responsible for the psychotropic effects of cannabis.

If we only consider this factor (the quantity of THC), the adjective “light” couldn’t be more appropriate. To make a comparison, Bedrocan, the medicine containing cannabis, has a THC concentration of 22%.

Cannabis light does not have any psychoactive effects and its dried inflorescences of cannabis sativa have THC contents which are so low that it can be sold freely.  

CBD and its therapeutic role

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of the main active principles of Cannabis sativa. The human being has an endocannabinoid system and cannabidiol (CBD) acts indirectly on the receptors of this system. Cannabidiol (CBD) does not exert its action specifically on a particular pathology.

Cannabidiol (CBD) modulates already existing mechanisms which are active in our organism. When an imbalance or an alteration occur in our endocannabinoid system, the modulation provided by cannabidiol (CBD) – acting, for example, on the immune system or indirectly on an inflammatory process – tend to recover the original equilibrium. Cannabidiol (CBD) exerts an indirect modulatory action on alteration in the human endocannabinoid system, caused by pathologies or traumas and it is for this reason that it is increasingly used by many individuals.

Cannabis Light, CBD and Therapeutic Cannabis, in summary:

With cannabis light we mean products deriving from dried inflorescences of cannabis in which the concentration of THC is comprised between 0,2% and 0,6%

CBD is cannabidiol: one of the main active principles of the Cannabis sativa plant.

Therapeutic cannabis, unlike cannabis light, contains rather different quantities of THC and CBD and can be purchased on medical prescription only.


Each individual approached the world of cannabis driven by different requirements. The use of medical cannabis takes place in close synergy with one’s physician, the guiding and unique figure who can prescribe a therapy.

The use of cannabis light, on the other hand, can be accompanied by a regular medical therapy (also in this case on medical prescription) or can be utilised in the daily context, always paying full attention to consuming a certified product, prepared according to strict criteria,  which guarantee quality and precision in the concentration of cannabidiol.

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