Public Education Section

About Cannabinoids

Cannabinoids are compounds derived from or based on chemicals found in the Cannabis sativa plant. These compounds have considerable potential for the treatment of a wide variety of symptoms and diseases, but the perceived association of cannabinoids with marijuana gives rise to a lot of misconceptions in this area. 



Cannabis has been utilized for various reasons throughout history. The Cannabis sativa plant originated in the temperate climates of Asia, and has been spread around the world and cultivated for use in making rope. Between 1937 and 1971 a series of laws and conventions led to the ban of cannabis in North America and much of Europe.  
Research into the psychoactive ingredients in cannabis led to the isolation of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive ingredient, followed by continuing research into the properties of cannabinoids – compounds derived from or based on chemicals specific to the Cannabis sativa plant. 
Health Canada released a research plan for the medical use of marijuana in 1999. In 2001, The Marijuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR) enabled Canadians with serious diseases access to medicinal marijuana, which evolved into the Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR) in 2013 and most recently replaced with the Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations (ACMPR) in 2016.

Therapeutic effects of cannabinoids are being continuously researched in Canada and internationally in order to gain a deeper understanding of their effects on the human body and uses in health and disease.


Cannabinoids For therapeutic Purposes


  • Synthetic THC analog
  • Prescribed in 0.25, 0.5 and 1mg capsules for oral administration
  • Oral antiemetic
  • Brand name: Cesamet®
  • Product Information


  • Synthetic THC analog
  • Prescribed in 2.5, 5 and 10 mg capsules for oral administration
  • Prescribed for the treatment of AIDS-related anorexia associated with weight loss.
  • Brand name: Marinol®

Nabiximols (1 THC : 1 CBD)

  • Standard marketing authorisation as adjunctive treatment for symptomatic relief of spasticity in adult patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) who have not responded adequately to other therapy and who demonstrate meaningful improvement during an initial trial of therapy.
  • Marketing authorization with conditions: Sativex® may be useful as adjunctive treatment for the symptomatic relief of neuropathic pain in adult patients with MS.
  • Marketing authorization with conditions: Sativex® may be useful as adjunctive analgesic treatment in adult patients with advanced cancer who experience moderate to severe pain during the highest tolerated dose of strong opioid therapy for persistent background pain.
  • Common name: Sativex®
  • Guy, Geoffrey (2004). "From Plant to Prescription Medicine". 2004 Cannabis Therapeutics Conference. Sponsored by Patients out of Time. Watch the Video.



The Nature of Things (Feb 4, 2010) "The Downside of High".
This documentary explores the connection between cannabis use in adolesence and psychiatric disorders. Three cases are presented and researchers interviewed. Viewing time approximately 1 hour.

View the documentary on The Nature of Things website by clicking here.