Leaf411: Colorado's "pot-line" where cannabis-trained nurses answer cannabis questions, COVID questions and offer professional healthcare advice
844-Leaf411 is a resource for the canna-curious
The amount of mis-information about cannabis use circulating the internet is staggering.
Google the term, “the health effects of cannabis” and the results that come back will vary widely. Some of the info is legit: There’s some scholarly articles about the safety of cannabis, how it isn’t right for everyone, how effects may vary between users and how, for many, it is a useful, beneficial, largely harmless medicine.
But that information is mixed in with as many (if not more) scare articles suggesting cannabis use impairs your brain permanently; that users often exhibit, “lower life satisfaction, poorer mental health, more relationship problems, and less academic and career success” (as Colorado’s own Weld County Department of Health asserts).
And, then, you may even find articles that suggest cannabis use is as harmless as organic broccoli. That everyone and their mothers should be using it because it cures cancer, prevents Alzheimer’s, and immunizes people against COVID-19.
It’s a mixed bag, to be sure. And it can be very difficult for someone who is uneducated, but curious about cannabis, to find the right information in that tossed salad of pot facts, fantasy fiction and scare tactics.
Wouldn’t it be nice if those ‘cannacurious’ individuals had a way to cut through all the bullshit? To strip the mis-information and the agendas away and get real answers to cannabis questions from medical professionals?
That was what Katherine Golden and Jennifer Axcell found themselves asking, when they worked together at a cannabis clinician’s office in Colorado.
“We had a mutual desire to make cannabis education from cannabis-trained medical-professionals widely available to the public in affordable and easily accessible ways,” Axcell, the companies COO and Co-Founder says. “Nothing like this existed — so we created it.”
Leaf411 (844-Leaf411) was launched in October of 2019. It’s a non-profit hotline; a team of cannabis-trained nurses, all passionate about helping the “community access balanced education about their legal cannabis use while also improving public perception of the cannabis industry.”
They’re on the phone and waiting for calls; to answer questions about anything.
And when I say “anything” I mean literally anything. According to Golden, the CEO/ED of Leaf411, they’ve answered questions about product safety, how to use certain products, which products to buy for what ailments, which cannabinoids are good for what; questions about dosages and over consumption; and, now, of course, questions about cannabis and COVID-19.
But, by far the questions they get most often, are about pain relief.
“Unfortunately, our country is in pain both physically and emotionally,” Golden says. “And so that's usually the number one question we hear.”
And, in the wake of COVID-19, the role of Leaf411 has gotten exponentially more important and diverse. They’ve broadened the scope of their post as a healthcare-call-center, and they’re receiving a much higher volume of inquiries and phone calls on an even wider variety of topics.
“The first calls that started to come through were about packaging,” says Golden. “You know, ‘I've had this package in my home for weeks now. Should I be afraid to use it? Does it have the virus on it?’”
Golden describes those calls as “fear-based” in the beginning; fears about packaging and fears about CBD’s effect on the anti-inflammatory system, fears about the effects of cannabis on the immune system. But, interestingly, as the days wore on and people’s sense of panic waned (somewhat), the calls began to change as well.
Now, many of the calls they’re getting are about managing stress and anxiety; getting better sleep; and questions about the best ways to use cannabis during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We're really, as an industry, trying to encourage people to put aside some of the inhalation use for now,” Golden says. “And temporarily switch to edible use, just because this virus attacks your respiratory system so violently”
Understanding that they had a role to play through the situation at hand, Golden, Axcell and their team at Leaf411 developed a preparedness plan specifically for dispensaries. Because, who better to help prepare cannabis employees for COVID-19 precautions, than cannabis-trained nurses?
“Because we are a nurse organization, we developed a preparedness plan that said, ‘here's what you need to keep in mind for your employees and your customers.’” Says Golden.
And cannabis businesses don’t have to be one of Leaf411’s business members to access that preparedness, plan. It’s a free resource and available for anyone who wants to use it.
“Any dispensary anywhere,” Says Axcell. “If we can help limit the amount of person-person contact people have, that's good for everybody.”
They’ve even partnered with Ready to Work, Aurora, a homeless shelter on lock-down because of COVID exposure.
“We're going to be part of their daily calls to have a face to see, and a medical professional to ask questions to,” Golden says. “Then, also we’ll be giving them our hotline number so they can call us at any time to ask questions, to hopefully keep them comfortable and feeling safe.”
The nurses at Leaf411 have certainly taken on a much broader role since COVID-19 came to Colorado. Like so many others in both the cannabis industry and the medical industry, their work is changing drastically on a sometimes-daily basis — though, they’re always striving towards the same goal.
“We're here to help people with their cannabis questions before, during and after their purchases,” says Axcell. “We're here for non-cannabis COVID questions as well. We are here and we have the manpower to help support our communities.”