Dronabinol (brand name Marinol) is a synthetic form of THC, the main psychoactive cannabinoid in cannabis. Marinol is a legal pharmaceutical pill.
Some valid reasons for which Marinol may be prescribed include use when a patient travels to a state where medical cannabis is not yet be legal or for patients who can’t use cannabis for employment or legal reasons.
The Differences Between Marijuana and Marinol
There are many differences between the natural plant marijuana (cannabis) and the synthetic cannabinoid Marinol. Legally speaking, the biggest difference is that marijuana is illegal — even for medicinal uses — under federal law, while Marinol can be prescribed legally in any state.
Marinol is a Schedule III drug, which means the government has determined that it has a moderate-to-low risk for dependency. The government still considers marijuana a Schedule I drug, meaning it is not currently accepted for medical use and carries a high risk of abuse.
Beyond the law, other differences include:
- THC occurs naturally in marijuana, while it is chemically engineered in Marinol
- Medical marijuana can be smoked, inhaled as a mist, eaten, applied to the skin, or placed under the tongue. Marinol can only be taken in pill form
- Marijuana has many cannabinoids in addition to THC, while Marinol only contains THC
- Medical marijuana has a faster absorption rate than Marinol, but Marinol remains in the blood for 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 are generally believed to have more intense side effects than natural cannabis