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When a patient is faced with a tough diagnosis, they often turn to their medical providers for the best treatment options. The troubling fact facing our healthcare professional is that they are not taught about the potential benefits of medicinal cannabis. This knowledge gap leaves a lot to be discovered by patients themselves who are seeking alternative treatments. After experiencing this firsthand with a family member, Katherine Golden, founder and CEO of Leaf411, decided to take action and help educate a community that was so in need of reliable and trustworthy information. Here, Golden shares her background, goals for Leaf411, and more.
How did you get involved in the cannabis industry? Can you tell us about Leaf411?
Katherine Golden: My advocacy for cannabis started from a personal crisis. A family member was suddenly diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and given 2-5 years to live. While my family was seeking every possible treatment, cannabis was mentioned once but the MD stated that it would be a last resort option since they knew nothing about the plant. Since I am a nurse and have resources, I took it upon myself to look at this option, especially due to hearing a lot about cannabis being in Colorado. I soon found out that there was a ton of science that showed promise and I was angry that the propaganda prevented me and others like me from learning about its potential as medicine. From that point on, I immersed myself in the industry and patient care, but soon found out there were many problems for access to the much needed education on safe use.
Leaf411 started as a solution to tackle healthcare inequality. While working as a cannabis nurse in a private practice, I heard first-hand of the challenges patients were having deciding if cannabis would work for them; if they could afford the out-of-pocket expense to have a consultation with a MD and then the expense of a follow-up appointment; and if they could then afford the recommended medicine. In the affluent neighborhood where this private practice was, only some could afford the ongoing education needed, but what about everyone else? As a resource for my family, I could jump on the phone and answer their questions, but what would every other family do? That’s when I decided I would create a solution to this healthcare inequality and I started the first, free, cannabis nurse hotline.
Is access to Leaf411 available nationally? Or is your work in a specific state? Do you offer any international access?
Golden: Yes, Leaf411 is not only national but we’ve taken calls and chats from other countries so I like to say that we are also accessible globally. We have the capability to translate any chat in the person's language to English, which allows us to gather enough information to then email them guidance in their native language.
Can you tell us about your partnership with the Cannabis Creative Movement and the guide you recently created to help patients dealing with opioid addiction (1)?
Golden: Leaf411 has been in the industry for over 2 years now and with our continued outreach into different communities, we’ve been fortunate enough to meet fantastic people like John Shute, co-founder of PufCreativ and Wes Donahoe, co-founder of The 9th Block. Cannabis Creative Movement, co-founded by John and Wes, reached out to Leaf411 asking if we would like to be a part of their educational guidebook series designed to inform on key issues while providing fundraising opportunities for nonprofits focused on those concerns. They had the idea for the Opioid Awareness Guide but wanted a licensed medical professional to help with its creation and Leaf411 fit that need perfectly. Leaf411’s Chief Nursing Officer, Eloise Theisen, took the lead and crafted a guide that brought awareness about the different types of chronic pain, the severity of the opioid crisis, the role that cannabis can play in symptom management and most importantly, a free resource from licensed medical professionals that consumers can trust for guidance.
What role do you think cannabis can play in the ongoing opioid crisis?
Golden: Cannabis has been shown to be effective in the treatment of chronic pain in adults. With research demonstrating that opioids are not effective in the treatment of chronic pain, plus opioids can produce significant side effects and are highly addictive, patients are looking to other options to safely and effectively manage their pain. Furthermore, studies have suggested that using cannabinoids in conjunction with opioids can help manage pain effectively and patients are able to reduce their overall opioid use. This reduction in opioid use will directly impact the opioid crisis because there will be less deaths associated with its abuse since most consumers can add cannabis medicine into their current regimen therefore reducing the potential lethal doses of opioids.
What other educational resources does Leaf411 offer?
Golden: Leaf411 offers many resources for education which include the free Hotline Program, a free virtual Leaf Learning Series event provided by the Outreach Program, and free access to our Leaf Library that provides articles, studies, and FAQs for many different medical conditions and topics.
Do you help patients get medical cannabis cards or just offer general advice?
Golden: Leaf411 provides the public with cannabis use guidance along with many other resources requested by patients. One example is our partnership with Leafwell, which is a company that connects consumers to a cannabis medical card provider in their state.
Is Leaf411 involved in any advocacy work?
Golden: As a thought leader in the cannabis industry, Leaf411 and its leadership team have continued to offer guidance to legislators and advocacy groups in multiple states, while also providing testimony for House Bills and participating in building a regulatory framework for specific topics of concern in Colorado.
Does the federal scheduling of cannabis impact your organizations’ work?
Golden: I believe if cannabis either becomes descheduled or rescheduled, our work at Leaf411 will only become more vital to every community across the country due to the flood of products and retail establishments people will have easy access to. Those communities will need constant guidance on the safe and effective use of their purchased products and will also need guidance on where to purchase specific products that best fit for their needs.
How can nurses or other individuals get involved?
Golden: Leaf411 is a nurse-run organization and we pride ourselves on this. We want the public to feel they can trust the evidence-based education we provide so we welcome more nurses to help the organization grow. We have recently launched a new Membership Ambassador incentive program that enables nurses to gain experience engaging with the industry while acquiring new monthly memberships pledges that are needed to allow Leaf411 to continue to grow!
What is the process for those seeking help?
Golden: Leaf411 is reachable by our toll-free number, 844-Leaf411 (844-532-3411) and by way of our chat feature on our website homepage at Leaf411.org.
What would you like to see change in the next few years in the US cannabis industry?
Golden: The change that I would like to see in the US cannabis industry is more gratitude for the cannabis patient consumer whose advocacy is the sole reason they are in existence today. That gratitude can be shown by way of supporting public services such as Leaf411 who advocate for harm reduction and the safe use of the products they manufacture and sell. There are many cannabis businesses that care about the consumers' access to safe guidance but there are many more, unfortunately, that don’t.