Medically Reviewed by
Jason Crawford

Article Last Updated on January 6, 2023

Marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, but many states have legalized the use of medical marijuana to treat the symptoms of different medical conditions, despite recreational marijuana not being legalized there yet. These states have developed medical marijuana programs and things seem to be going well. 

Therefore, there is an open question about whether medical marijuana can be just as helpful for mental health as it is for physical health. Depression, as one of the most common mental health disorders on the planet, is usually treated with a combination of antidepressants and psychotherapy. However, many people don’t respond well to this treatment and look for other effective treatment solutions, such as cannabis.

There has been some research into whether the use of cannabis could help manage the symptoms of depression. So far, there has been a lot of anecdotal evidence that many people who suffer from depression self-medicate with cannabis. Now, they may be able to get a medical marijuana card to buy their cannabis legally, which is what we cover in today’s article.

What Are the Symptoms of Depression?

Depression is a mood disorder that goes way beyond just feeling sad all the time. It’s also a constant sense of hopelessness and worthlessness, loss of interest in things you used to care about, and feeling empty and/or irritable. 

However, the symptoms of depression are not limited to just feeling bad, they commonly include physical symptoms, like fatigue and unexplained aches such as back pain or headaches, changes in appetite that can lead to weight loss or weight gain, sleep disturbances like insomnia or excessive sleeping, as well as trouble concentrating and/or racing thoughts.

Depression can be mild, and therefore more manageable, but it can also be more severe, requiring a more active treatment. Suffering from a major depressive disorder or clinical depression can be a debilitating condition that can negatively impact one’s well-being. Therefore, finding the right treatment is vital.

With the right approach, depression is a treatable and manageable condition. However, for many people, the conventionally given antidepressants can only make it worse. They can cause unpleasant side effects that often drive patients towards looking into other options, such as medical marijuana.

Can the Use of Marijuana Help With Depression?

Despite all the anecdotal evidence of people using marijuana to control their symptoms of depression, clinical research is still in its early stages. However, it doesn’t mean that we have no insight. One of the more important studies published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2018 gives some insight into the effects of marijuana on depression and anxiety disorder.

In the study, the researchers tracked the perceived changes in the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic stress in medical marijuana users. The patients were all using different doses and different strains of marijuana, which gave the researchers further insight into how the cannabinoids THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) affected these changes.

The results revealed that cannabis use significantly decreased the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and chronic stress. But that’s not all, as they also discovered that cannabis strains that were high in CBD and low in THC were better for reducing the symptoms of depression, while strains high in THC and low in CBD were better for reducing the symptoms of chronic stress.

Still, it should be noted that there’s not enough information on the long-term use of marijuana on depression and that individuals prone to psychosis are advised to avoid using marijuana.

How Does Cannabis Work?

Cannabis interacts with the human body through the endocannabinoid system, which is a system of endocannabinoid receptors located throughout the body. Its main role is to keep the internal processes balanced and smooth out any irregularities. They play a role in motor control, emotions, memory, learning, cognition, immunity, and much more.

The body naturally produces endocannabinoids which bind to the receptors and help to regulate the internal functions. There are two types of endocannabinoid receptors – the CB1 receptors are mainly located in the central nervous system and the brain, while the CB2 receptors are located in the immune cells.

The cannabinoids in marijuana mimic the naturally produced endocannabinoids and in this way, they interact with the endocannabinoid receptors in the body. As a result of that, they can influence all the functions in the body.

One animal-based study conducted by the University at Buffalo that examines the relationship of the cannabinoids with the endocannabinoid system in connection to depression has found something interesting. 

They found that increased chronic stress lowered the production of endocannabinoids in the body, which in turn, caused a depression-like behavior in mice. Interestingly, the cannabinoids present in marijuana helped to restore normal endocannabinoid function and stabilized mood.

What Are the Qualifying Conditions for Obtaining a Medical Marijuana Card?

In order to obtain a medical marijuana card, you need to be at least 18 years old (in some states you can be younger, but you’ll need parental consent) and have a permanent residence in the state. But the most important thing is to have a qualifying condition that will make you eligible for a medical marijuana card.

The legalization of medical cannabis has made it available in many states, but they all have different qualifying conditions listed. However, some of them are more common, and these are the ones we’ll mention. For more information, you should check out the medical marijuana card regulations in your state.

Upon consultation with a medical marijuana doctor, you will be given a prescription which you will take to the nearest dispensary. Medical cannabis comes in many forms and it’s not a one-size-fits-all, therefore, your treatment will be unique for you.

The most common qualifying conditions are:

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Depression
  • Cachexia
  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Chronic pain
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Seizures related to epilepsy
  • Glaucoma
  • Nausea

In What States Can You Obtain a Medical Cannabis Card for Depression?

Even though the research on depression and medical marijuana is still in its infancy, there are some states that have put depression and anxiety on their list of qualifying conditions.

So far, these are the states where you can get approved for medical marijuana to treat depression:

  • Florida
  • Ohio 
  • Missouri 
  • California
  • Maryland

Bottom Line – You Can Get Medical Marijuana for Depression, but Not in All States

Depression is a serious condition and it’s important that it gets treated as soon as possible. With the use of cannabis growing, it’s normal to wonder if it can also treat depression. Even though there isn’t an abundance of clinical evidence, many people still use it to self-medicate.

Sadly, despite the extensive list of qualifying conditions for a medical marijuana card, depression is not on the list in every state where it’s legal. Still, consulting with a medical professional is highly advised so you can safely use marijuana to treat depression.

A passionate advocate for the benefits of cannabis. Fraser Horton, who has a background in botany and a strong love of nature, has spent years researching how cannabis affects the body and mind. He established Leaf Nation in 2020, where he has devoted himself to educating people about the legalisation of marijuana and its safe and responsible use. Fraser is committed to highlighting cannabis’ potential for improving wellness and working to dispel the stigma associated with its use.


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