Marijuana has always had a bad rap as a “gateway” drug. Medical marijuana, slowly but surely, is being approved for use in the U.S. by state after state. By mid-2015, 23 states and Washington DC had legalized pot for medical use.Whether you’ve already gotten a prescription for using it, or have plans to talk to your doctor about trying it, the process nation-wide is expected to go through some ups and downs before it’s accepted across the mainstream. Regardless of which side of the issue you stand on, here’s some things you should know about medical marijuana.

1. All marijuana is not the same. Every strain of pot has different balances of cannabinoids (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that produces the “high”. But the effects of THC can be offset by higher CBD content. CBDs are what help relieve symptoms like spasms and seizures, and in medical marijuana strains the THC might be less than 5%. Even the same strain from different growers can have different levels of THC. It also treats a variety of problems, depending on the disease, such as easing pain for glaucoma sufferers and reducing nausea in cancer victims. But, like any drug, cannabis is not likely to affect all people in quite the same way.

2. Marijuana is not always smoked, so it does not have to pose the same risks as cigarettes. You can inhale it with a vaporizer, eat it in foods, or take a concentrated liquid in drinks. In states where it’s legal for recreation, pot is sold in all these forms over the counter. How it’s taken also affects how much is used; digestion slows absorption but prolongs the effect. Medical marijuana is commonly taken orally, and often in the form of capsules or pills not very different from herbal supplements. It is not taken to get high. Medical marijuana should be seen as an entirely different drug than recreational marijuana.

3. Pot use as a legal medicine is not a burden on society. Some vocal anti-marijuana groups still contend that it will lead to addiction and treatments that drain public funds. In fact, the marijuana industry has demonstrated quite the opposite. In the state of Washington, taxes and fees from the legal sale of marijuana are projected to hit $190 million over the next few years, while prosecuting marijuana possession costs the U.S. over $17 billion annually. By federal law, even those with a prescription could still be charged.

Comparisons to alcohol abuse do not really apply, nor does the idea of medical use as leading to drug addiction; in fact, new studies may suggest that use of marijuana reduces that new epidemic- opioid abuse.