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Real Cannabis vs Synthetic Marinol – Which One is Better?

Written by Alexandra Hicks

Despite the fact that most of the United States has legalized medical cannabis to some extent, many doctors are still urging patients to use a synthetic alternative instead.

Marinol, generic Dronabinol, is the first FDA-approved, cannabinoid substitute. It’s sold as a gel capsule in 2.5mg, 5mg, and 10mg doses and it contains a synthetic form of THC as the active ingredient. Natural, plant-derived tetrahydrocannabinol is the psychoactive ingredient found in the cannabis plant. The effects of real cannabis are mimic those created by the cannabinoid chemicals naturally produced by our own bodies – the Endocannabinoid System.

Marinol is basically just fake, man-made THC, formulated in sesame oil. It’s prescribed for issues with weight loss and nausea caused by chemotherapy or HIV/AIDS retroviral medication. Marinol is normally only prescribed when other medication options have failed, although most patients report not feeling the same relief from Marinol as they do from real cannabis. 


Most find it very hard to believe that this man-made alternative could ever be anywhere near as effective as the real thing, and they’re correct. Unlike smoked or vaporized cannabis flowers, or other CBD and THC products, Marinol/Dronabinol provides minimal relief from nausea and pain. Many report feeling no effects at all actually, but unfortunately, there are no official studies comparing the effects of cannabis products vs Marinol.

Aside from being largely ineffective, there are many other drawbacks to using Marinol instead of real, organic cannabis. A lot of unusual side effects have been reported, such as changes in mood, confusion, delusions, fast or pounding heartbeat, loss of memory, mental depression, nervousness or anxiety, blurred vision, chills, sweating, and unusual tiredness or weakness.

A 30-day supply of 5mg Marinol

It can also get quite expensive, meaning it would be unaffordable for many patients because most insurance plans don’t cover Marinol or Drobinol. The average cost for a 30-day supply is $692. Compare this to natural cannabis that has a nationwide average price of $320.1 for one ounce (28 grams), which for many people could last 30 days, if not more. Plus, in many of the legal and decriminalized states, the cost of one ounce could be as low as $100 for decent quality flowers.  

Sadly, many patients who feel duped by Marinol are unable to obtain real cannabis products on a regular basis. They would risk arrest and/or prosecution for simply trying to use the product that Marinol is supposed to be an imitation of anyway.

Enormous amounts of research from doctors, patients, and scientists proves that real, natural cannabis is superior to Marinol, hands down. For most patients, Marinol does not even come close to providing the same level of treatment that the organics do. Activists continue to lobby for medical cannabis nationwide, and at the federal level, so patients can have safe, quick, and affordable access when they need it.

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About the author

Alexandra Hicks

Managing editor at Cannadelics and U.S based journalist, helping spread the word about the many benefits of using cannabis and psychedelics.