Marinol is the brand name for a synthetic form of THC called dronabinol. It was originally introduced to the market to treat symptoms caused by AIDS in the early 1980’s.

It has been controversial ever since.

The drug was originally developed during the first, limited attempts to commercialise a cannabinoid-based medicine.[1] Many patients, particularly those suffering from other conditions, do not like it. They say that it either does not work at all, or is so intense that they cannot moderate its effects. Others, particularly those suffering from nausea, say it upsets their stomach.

Originally introduced as a Schedule II substance, Marinol has been rescheduled to Schedule III. It is unclear whether, like Sativex, it will be further downgraded. Meanwhile, the plant itself remains a Schedule I drug in the U.S. and throughout most of the world.

Research on THC and cannabinoids in general tends to bear out the above claims and more. Marinol does not contain CBD, which is a much relied upon cannabinoid in the medical community. It also does not contain flavonoids or terpenes. Furthermore, microdosing cannabis is gathering steam as a viable medical practice.

The rise of “whole plant” medication may finally put the use of Marinol to bed. In the meantime, many patients are forced to rely on this drug instead of the real thing. Why? It is covered by insurance where cannabis “bud” is not.

Marinol composition synthetic thc


THC is a chemical molecule like any other. It can be reproduced in a lab. That is what Marinol is - a medicine based on cannabinoid chemistry.

This results in the synthetic cannabinoid dronabinol, which is then dissolved in sesame oil and put into tablets.


Marinol is commonly prescribed for wasting syndrome, nausea and increasingly, chronic pain caused by movement disorders including MS and Dystonia. It is also a Schedule III drug. As such, it is often covered under most western health insurance plans.

In most places, the fight right now is to bring greater awareness to whole plant medication as a more effective and natural alternative to synthetic formulations.


There are many, many reasons why the whole cannabis plant and its chemical constituents are superior to Marinol.

  1. Patients can control their dosing better. Even the smallest dosage of Marinol - 5mg - is too much for many patients to handle all at once. Taking cannabinoids in others ways is easier and makes for more adjustable dosing. Marinol can send you to the stratosphere. For patients looking to stay fully functional, this is obviously an uncomfortable place to be.
  2. It can upset the stomach. Marinol can actually cause nauseous patients to feel sicker, not better.
  3. It does not contain other cannabinoids. Marinol only contains synthetic THC. CBD, in particular, is known to interact with THC in many beneficial ways. Stripping medicine of this cannabinoid and others completely defeats the purpose.
  4. Medical marijuana contains more efficient medicine. It includes all of the plant’s cannabinoids, plus much more. Aromatic compounds known as terpenes have made a huge splash recently for contributing to the overall medical efficacy of cannabis. Marinol has none of these. It is also missing the flavonoids, which are believed to help the drug work better too.
  5. It has other side effects. Many patients simply cannot tolerate the drug. While marijuana also has side effects, many of these can be ameliorated depending on strain. There is only one strain of Marinol.

One thing is very clear. Given the choice, patients overwhelmingly choose natural forms of cannabis, or failing that, substances made directly from the plant.


This is a very good question. The answers are mostly political. Marinol has always been used to slow down full plant reform. This is because of the stigma still surrounding cannabis culture. It is also due to the lobbying power of entrenched pharmaceutical companies. In general, the drug industry does not like medical marijuana. It sees weed as a threat.

However, this might be changing. Medical trials, for cancer in particular, are finding something interesting now. Adding marijuana to conventional drugs appears to make both medications work better.

In this kind of environment, drug companies are likely to change their views about cannabis. That is, if they have not already begun patenting a cannabinoid concoction they can then sell to a hungry market.

In the interim, Marinol is one of the few cannabinoid-based medications that is widely available globally.

Even when used medicinally, the plant continues to be prohibited in many parts of the world. That too may be changing, but it is the next big fight ahead. In both Canada and Germany right now, patients are suing insurance companies who refuse to cover the cost of their medication.

THC comparison against synthetic THC


If you are one of the lucky patients who has a helpful doctor on this front, the first step is to initiate the conversation.

The first issue is cost.

If that is not an issue depending on where you live, you are in luck.

In the United States, Canada, Israel, Australia and Germany, this is a conversation that is going on daily. The advances made by the movement to reform and legalise cannabis have created this opportunity.

However, there is still a long way to go. In Germany, patients currently face the unappetising “choice” of paying 10 euros for a monthly supply of dronabinol or much more for the real plant.

Most people do not really have a choice to make.

That is why this issue has become so contentious.


There is a great deal of debate on this issue. Some people take Marinol to try to cheat drug tests. Sadly, this is not an effective solution. Marijuana has more chemicals in it than Marinol. Drug tests look for the difference. In a pinch, you can always ask to be retested and rely on Marinol for a month. These are the uncomfortable situations patients often find themselves in. However, be aware - this is a tactic of the last resort.

You can, in fact, tell the difference between the two substances in all body fluid tests.


External Resources:
  1. Medical marijuana: Medical necessity versus political agenda
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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